x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

How TV broadened my world

As a young girl growing up in grey and rainy north London, I would lose myself for hours in the exotic landscapes behind the yellow-bordered covers of National Geographic magazines

The first time I realised I was fluent in Arabic was in September, when a flurry of e-mails from gentlemen across the Middle East appeared in my inbox.

The e-mails came from Libya to Lebanon and included one from a young man in Jordan who needed help with his passport problem and an 18-year-old in Morocco inquiring about my availability for marriage.

Over the past eight years, I have become used to this unsolicited foreign correspondence, since a documentary profile of my life as a photojournalist was made by the National Geographic Channel and then translated into 25 languages. The hour-long biography, Truth Files: Unfinished Business, follows my adventures in Pakistan and India, where I used to live and work. It documents my assignments covering news and features, including a scoop shot of General Pervez Musharraf and his Pekinese puppies - the first photograph taken of him after the coup in 1999.

The film is beautifully shot in National Geographic's signature style and captures the essence of my life at that time - a woman whose career is on the other side of the camera.

The power of the film, in no small part due to its flawless production and the fact that I've had quite an eventful life, has at times been overwhelming. Somehow viewers seem to connect with the girl on the screen and the stories I was telling with my pictures. I have received tens of thousands of e-mails over the years, been recognised at airports, dinner parties and even once in a shoe shop in Sri Lanka.

As a young girl growing up in grey and rainy north London, I would lose myself for hours in the exotic landscapes behind the yellow-bordered covers of National Geographic magazines. It was always a dream to experience those worlds, so when my chosen career made it a reality, it was the ultimate privilege that National Geographic were there to record it.

Given the fact I failed my French A-level, it is both bizarre and most gratifying to find myself communicating fluently in, among others: Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Bahasa, Japanese, Mandarin and Slovenian and now, on screens across the Middle East, in Arabic.

Karen Davies, deputy photo editor, The National