Renowned New Zealand photojournalist Wade Goddard's images of horror, despair and heroic endurance during the Yugoslav Wars featured in newspapers and magazines around the world.

But he could barely bring himself to focus on one dreadful scene captured in his new book on one of those brutal conflicts, The Kosovo War.

Arriving in the morning at a forest near a Kosovo village, he was witness to the aftermath of a mass killing, including women and children.

One of his images is of bodies sprawled on the ground, partially covered by scrub.

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Kosovars wave at German NATO troops on their return to Kosovo at the Morini border crossing. Photo / Wade Goddard
Kosovars wave at German NATO troops on their return to Kosovo at the Morini border crossing. Photo / Wade Goddard

They are, Goddard says, those of a mother and her 5- and 7-year-old children, shot as they tried to flee.

"It was so bad that actually I wasn't able to [focus]," says Goddard from his home in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik.

"I sort of just lifted up my camera and… went click, click.

"But I spent most of the time sitting in the forest, sitting under a tree just in disbelief and horror from it all. It was by far the worst thing I've seen in Kosovo."

Goddard, 49, was one of the first foreign photographers on the scene for the relatively brief but bloody Kosovo War, between the separatist Kosovo Liberation Army and the forces of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

His book marks 20 years since the beginning of the war, from February 1998 to June 1999, estimated to have cost more than 10,000 lives and displaced more than one million people.

It documents the despair of processions of those refugees on foot, tractor and even wheelbarrows; of mourners at mass funerals; of villagers returning to razed homes.

But it also documents courage and endurance, like that of a 94-year-old woman sitting in her shelter of tree branches two months after her village had been destroyed.

And of a ring of children holding hands and laughing as they play in a refugee camp.

A young boy walks down the railway tracks as his family flee from their villages. Photo / Wade Goddard
A young boy walks down the railway tracks as his family flee from their villages. Photo / Wade Goddard

At 22 Goddard, from Eketahuna, with no reporting background, had bought cameras and driven across Europe to record the Yugoslav Wars.

He had a keen interest in photography as a teen.

At around 16 he saw a documentary about a filmmaker in North Africa covering a conflict. The filmmaker was in a convoy of vehicles in the desert, "and I remember [the] convoy getting strafed by an aeroplane and his biggest concern was setting up the camera to get the shot".

"Somehow that inspired in me this connection between photography, that I already had fallen in love with, and... global events."

A young girl looks through the plastic sheeting that now makes up their living and sleeping space at a refugee camp in Kukes Albania. Photo / Wade Goddard
A young girl looks through the plastic sheeting that now makes up their living and sleeping space at a refugee camp in Kukes Albania. Photo / Wade Goddard

After leaving Tararua College, Goddard completed a lineman apprenticeship.
Keen to travel, he headed to London where he worked in a pub before journeying around Europe.

Back in London in 1991, he "picked up a photo magazine from a news stand".
"There was a feature story from a photographer with coverage of [the] Croatian War (of Independence)."

Goddard was moved by the article.

The feature included the photographer's phone number, he says.

A convoy of French NATO troops stops on the roadside between Pristina and Kosovo Mitrovica. Photo / Wade Goddard
A convoy of French NATO troops stops on the roadside between Pristina and Kosovo Mitrovica. Photo / Wade Goddard

"After I plucked up the courage to call him, he agreed to [meet for] coffee."

Goddard says the pair became friends and when the Bosnian War broke out in 1992, the photographer proposed they go there.

"I accepted his proposal and we both drove from London to Bosnia."

In the foreword to his book, he says "covering the breakup of the former Yugoslavia became my life's pursuit".

"I had to be there, to see it for myself, to feel it, to try and understand it, the brutality, the death, the destruction.

A 94-year-old ethnic Albanian woman sits in her shelter made of tree branches. Photo / Wade Goddard
A 94-year-old ethnic Albanian woman sits in her shelter made of tree branches. Photo / Wade Goddard

"What leads a people to destroy another and themselves in the process.

"If we understood the answers to this and the consequences of armed conflict perhaps we would pressure our political leaders to try a little harder to avoid war.

"I guess I am still hoping that images such as these could help change the course of human history."

Goddard covered the wars as a freelance photographer for Reuters, The New York Times and Newsweek.

Ethnic Albanian students hold a protest in Pristina against the recent Serb police violence. Photo / Wade Goddard
Ethnic Albanian students hold a protest in Pristina against the recent Serb police violence. Photo / Wade Goddard

He was there during the deadly Siege of Sarajevo and recorded the heartbreak of women and children refugees moved out of Srebrenica where they had to leave their menfolk behind.

As many as around 8000 men and boys were later estimated to have been killed in what has become known as the Srebrenica massacre.

Goddard says the Kosovo War was different to other conflicts in that the KLA largely fought a guerilla war.

"Bosnia was a war and Croatia was a war where there were solid front lines.

"Come to the front line and you could go no further and if you stuck your head up for too long you would lose it.

An ethnic Albanian man returns to his tractor that was trashed by Serb police. Photo / Wade Goddard
An ethnic Albanian man returns to his tractor that was trashed by Serb police. Photo / Wade Goddard

"But Kosovo... there [were] no real front lines."

Goddard had a number of close shaves during his years covering the Yugoslav Wars.

Snipers missed his head by centimetres several times, he says, and he was shot at with 60mm mortars as he drove a car through a front line town.

He says when he and another foreign journalist were arrested by police at a checkpoint near the border into Kosovo and made to wait for hours for special forces, he started "running through the worst scenarios, preparing for what could be".

A young paralized ethnic Albanian girl sits in her wheelchair in the forest refugee camp. Photo / Wade Goddard
A young paralized ethnic Albanian girl sits in her wheelchair in the forest refugee camp. Photo / Wade Goddard

When a black car arrived and men "jumped out with… Uzis and no uniforms" his fears consolidated, he says.

But Goddard says he and the other journalist still had paperwork in their pockets from when they had been in Kosovo earlier, giving them permission to work there.

"They asked, have you accreditation?"

"We pulled it out (and) it was still good for another day or so."

They were asked to go back the way they came.

Serb policemen and a Yugoslav Army tank move the road in the village of Bukos, Kosovo. Photo / Wade Goddard
Serb policemen and a Yugoslav Army tank move the road in the village of Bukos, Kosovo. Photo / Wade Goddard

Goddard was in Kosovo for most of the war, apart from a month in 1999, for the birth of daughter Perina, from his first marriage to a Zagreb local.

Peace was reached after Nato intervened.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008. More than 100 countries now recognise it as an independent republic.

Goddard says you need to be open-minded to be a conflict photographer because preconceptions about situations and those involved can prove wrong.

"You might think you understand what's going on - chances are you don't."

Kosovo took a "pretty heavy" toll on him as a new father.

Ethnic Albanians flee from their home village of Istok in Kosovo after Serb forces entered the village giving residents minutes to leave or be shot. Photo / Wade Goddard
Ethnic Albanians flee from their home village of Istok in Kosovo after Serb forces entered the village giving residents minutes to leave or be shot. Photo / Wade Goddard

Seeing parents trying desperately to protect their children from the "horrific situation" while not knowing "where the next meal is coming from… where you're going to sleep that night" was hard to bear.

"One day it completely overwhelmed me and I just sort of collapsed for a while."

When the wars ended, Goddard, stayed on in the Croatian city of Dubrovnik, where he lives with his wife Nina - a survivor of the Siege of Sarajevo - and their daughter Rea, 3.

A friend bought a space in Dubrovnik's old town and together they set up Goddard's acclaimed War Photo Limited gallery in 2003.

With her head in her hands a young ethnic Albanian girl stands infront of her families home as it burns to the ground in the village of Shtitarice, Kosovo. Photo / Wade Goddard
With her head in her hands a young ethnic Albanian girl stands infront of her families home as it burns to the ground in the village of Shtitarice, Kosovo. Photo / Wade Goddard

The exhibition centre, which has been ranked in the top 10 attractions in Dubrovnik, displays the work of leading photojournalists from modern-day war and conflict zones.

Its current exhibition, running until the end of October, features 60 images from Goddard's book The Kosovo War.

War Photo Limited's intent is to present to the public the reality of war, "to expose the myth of war by focusing on how war inflicts injustices on innocents and combatants alike".

"War is just loss," Goddard says.

The Kosovo War by Wade Goddard, $26 http://www.warphotoltd.com/shop/books/the-kosovo-war18