Nigel Brennan enrolled at Griffith University to study photography as a mature-age student. Majoring in photojournalism enabled him to fulfill his dream of becoming a conflict reporter.
A highly regarded photographer, in 2005 Nigel was selected as a finalist in the Leica Documentary Awards for the series Crossroads, and in 2007 as a finalist for the National Photographic Portrait Prize. His photographs are held in galleries and private collections around Australia.
After honing his practice in newspapers he decided to make the leap as a freelance photojournalist. In August 2008, Brennan travelled to Somalia to report a story few wanted to tell: the human price of 20 years of complex conflict, food insecurity and drought in a country the international community had all but abandoned.
Little did he know that the price of telling this story would be 15 months in captivity. On his way to record conditions in a camp for 50,000 internally displaced people outside the capital, Mogadishu, Brennan and four others were kidnapped by a criminal gang. Nigel was no longer a 'life'. He was a commodity – and the only buyer was his family.
Five months into his kidnapping ordeal, Brennan attempted to escape his captors. It changed the entire dynamic of the captive situation, from an uncomfortable yet amicable place, to a place of darkness, humiliation and torture.
It was during this time that Brennan made the conscious decision to accept his present situation, while holding strong hopes and aspirations for his future. Having lived in denial the first five months, the escape thrust Brennan into the reality of his situation and demanded a mental strength that Brennan never knew he had.
It's this change in perspective that allowed Brennan to survive his ordeal. It was impossible for him to look at the world the same way, having to confront his weaknesses, loose his ego and face his demons. Instead of being a victim, Brennan embraced the trauma that surrounded him to exit the other side a stronger, more compassionate and more conscious being, with a far greater understanding of forgiveness.
Brennan was held in dangerous and deteriorating conditions. He spent 13 months in isolation and 10 months in ankle chains. After 462 days, Nigel was finally released after his family paid a ransom.
The Brennan family's unrelenting determination to save Nigel was the subject of a Logie-nominated Australian Story episode, aired on Australia's ABC network in May 2010.
Despite the physical and mental scars of torture and of not being seen as a person, but something for sale, Brennan's self-belief and trademark sense of humour have not only seen him recover, but establish himself as an author, public speaker, trainer, advisor and now response consultant.
Nigel holds a Bachelor of Arts (Photojournalism) from the Queensland College of Arts, Griffith University, and plans to return to his first love, photojournalism.
Christened 'The Dirty Hostage' by co-author and sister, Nicky, Nigel Brennan's story is one of survival, resilience and hope. His life is testament to the strength of the human spirit and the unyielding love of a family.
The extraordinary story of their ordeal, The Price of Life, was published in June, 2011.
Client Comments for Nigel Brennan
- Nigel had our conference attendees in the palm of his hands. Nigel was the closing speaker at the end of two long days of conference, yet you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Nigel's story is so extraordinary it sounds like a movie script rather than a real life experience. He tells his story with humour, humility, compassion and emotional intelligence. His messages of 'you never know what you are capable of until you are up against it' and 'family is everything' were perfect for our executive crowd. Nigel was generous with his time, meeting and talking with delegates before and after his presentation. He made a fantastic contribution to our conference, and weeks later, our attendees are still talking about Nigel's story.
CEO, Self Storage Association of Australasia
- I invited Nigel to our corporate strategic workshop to share his experience of being held as a hostage for 462 days in Somalia. My goal was to provide my team and myself with a better perspective of why your family is so important and of the opportunities, people and things we each take for granted everyday. Nigel's presentation was brilliantly presented to us while we enjoyed dinner; he spoke from the heart and made the entire audience including waiters and waitresses pause to listen. He combined this with some video, images and audio phone calls to create what I would frame as one of the most moving presentations I have ever witnessed. I can't recommend Nigel enough. It was an amazing journey he shared with us.
Wiley & Co
- The Aquinas Ladies Auxiliary had the great pleasure in securing Nigel Brennan as their guest speaker for the annual July Morning Tea. It was a greatly anticipated event and Nigel did a fabulous job in delivering his incredible story. Nigel was sincere and spoke with great Integrity and honesty. As mind blowing as his story is, Nigel focused on the positive aspects of the journey he travelled and how his life has transitioned from the experience. It was inspiring to hear Nigel speak of the struggles and dark moments he faced and how he overcame them with intelligence, inner strength and faith. Nigel is a beacon for those who have faced adversity and managed to embrace their life, and continue their course with equanimity. The feedback from the audience was extremely positive. Everyone left feeling appreciative of the life they have been blessed with and the need to hug their family that little bit tighter!
Aquinas College Ladies Auxiliary
- An amazing, real life story! As Nigel spoke I found myself picturing the events as though it was a high-drama action movie, but no - he really did live through this incredibly terrifying and traumatic experience. His strength, not only to survive but to find growth and positivity from the incident, is admirable. Our audience was captivated throughout Nigel's presentation, and no doubt, left to ponder in their own minds just how they might react when thrust into a similarly trying situation.
Engineers Australia, Newcastle Division
- The presentation Nigel provided based upon his experiences of being captured and held captive was an extremely interesting story of 'The Price of Life'. This story was sobering, inspiring and uplifting, especially in relation to his endurance of the situation in which he found himself and also the actions of his family against all odds to secure his safe release and return home to Australia. We have received many favourable comments regarding this event and especially in relation to Nigel's presentation. So thank you again for providing such a memorable presentation, it was extremely interesting to meet with Nigel and to hear this incredible story.
Engineers Australia, Newcastle Division
- The Price of Life: What Can We Achieved When Called Upon?
"I can't think of one thing that I would change - the team were brilliant."
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"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
Harry S. Truman