Ton Koene (48) holds a degree in humanitarian practice from Oxford University. After graduating in 1989, he worked for sixteen years for Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF), primarily as Head of Mission in twelve conflict areas, including Afghanistan, Somalia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Angola and Sudan. He was responsible for all humanitarian operations in these countries.
Koene found himself increasingly drawn to photography and missed creativity in the humanitarian world. In 2006, he resigned from MSF and began working as a freelance photojournalist. He continued traveling to (post-) conflict countries, exchanging the syringe for a camera. His photo documentaries have covered such topics as prostitution in Nigeria, coal mining in Bulgaria, malnutrition in Somalia, genocide in Darfur, and the Inuits of the North Pole. Humanitarianism has always been the main focus of his features.
Koene’s photos have been published in many international magazines and newspapers, and his photo archives are represented by agencies over the world. Since starting as a professional photographer, Koene has produced five photo books and one textbook (about how to survive in dangerous countries).
Koene is an autodidact photographer. In his opinion, a keen eye, a passion for photography and knowing how to deal with people are the most important ingredients for success—technique is overrated.
Since January 2010, Koen has been based in Afghanistan as a freelance photographer for the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant.