What distinct memory do you have from your time covering the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war?
"I've been to Syria around 25 times, and the accumulation of horror is so massive. I saw friends die there, and while I tried not to focus on this, it's always there alongside disbelief at how this peaceful uprising deteriorated into a terrible civil war. I decided not to go back in 2014 or 2015. I paid a price for it – I think every photographer who's covered conflict pays a price. It's not the moments on the ground but the moments back home that are challenging."
What kept you motivated throughout your time there?
"I don't go to war zones looking for danger. What I've always been interested in is countries that are turned upside down. I get to see the worst, but also the best of humanity. I feel privileged to have been able to witness history evolving in front of my eyes and as a politically interested person, it's just unbelievable."
In 1999, you co-founded zenith. What were your hopes for the magazine and have your ambitions changed since?
"It started as a completely niche thing because my friend was studying Arabic. We were friends who travelled together so I agreed to help him out, and it evolved into being the most important magazine about the Middle East in Europe. It used to be monthly, then it became every second month and then quarterly. Every medium is struggling, but we're trying to stick to quarterly printed magazines while shifting everything online. It's now published in three different languages: Arabic, English and German."
You've won many awards. Which are you most proud of?
"The only award I directly applied for was the Oscars. That's what I'm most proud of. I was in the edit of Watani: My Homeland when I turned on the TV to watch the Academy Awards. I'd never watched it before, but a friend of mine had been nominated and I wanted to see if he'd win. Until then I didn't realise that Best Documentary Short Subject was a category, but when I saw it I thought, 'Maybe I should do this!' I learned a lot about the industry through the process and it opened up many doors."
What advice would you give someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?
"There are a lot of young journalists out there looking to make a name for themselves, and my advice would be to try to understand what role it is you're playing. In a world that's overloaded with information, I think what I'm able to do with speciality documentary filmmaking is create something that people can relate to and understand. Although we might feel very removed from people in war zones, we connect through global themes, and that's what I want to show."