Tragedy in Pictures
Yesterday in Libya two acclaimed photographers were killed as they covered the war between those loyal to al-Qaddafi and those who, among other things, want al-Qaddafi to go. Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros are apparently well-respected photojournalists. I don’t know their work intimately but I’m sure I’ve seen a picture or two or five from each of them while reading news articles. The LENS blog from the New York Times posted parting glances of each man’s work (here and here) and I got an idea of why they are so respected (click the links to see the slideshows). Particularly striking from among the ones chosen to represent Mr. Hetherington’s work is a 2005 image of a child in Liberia doing his homework under a streetlight. That picture could be in any peaceful developed or underdeveloped country in any urban or rural area; it captured the human struggle and the humanity that connects us all. I have seen children in Jamaica doing the same. Mr. Hondros grabbed me with a 2005 picture of a young Iraqi girl crying, blood covering her hands and face and dotting the hem of her dress. Her parents were killed by U.S. soldiers who fired on the car when it did not stop as demanded. (Why not shoot the tires and simply disable the car then question the occupants? Perhaps that is not logical behaviour when one is in a war zone. But I digress.)
Mr. Hetherington directed last year’s much-talked about documentary “Restrepo.” Restrepo followed some U.S. troops during their “grueling 14-month tour of duty in an especially dangerous part of Afghanistan.” I haven’t seen it yet but I know it’s something I’ll eventually watch because war time footage fascinates me. Many nights I am channel surfing and get stuck on the History and Military channels. Those who fight in a war are, in my opinion, to be respected because their bravery is unparalleled. Quibble with the whys of a war, the failures of diplomacy, the bloodlust or idiocy (or both) of leaders, but the troops and veterans deserve respect.
Anyway, the day before these photojournalists were killed I read an article about the 2011 Pulitzer Prize winners. For the first time an award was given for “Breaking News Photography”; it went to Carol Guzy, Nikki Kahn and Ricky Carioti of The Washington Post for their coverage of the January 2010 EQ in Haiti. Their photographs are gripping. The one that stood out to me the most is of tears streaming down an old woman’s face…as it came up on my screen I gasped…felt so…profoundly sad
For the other pictures that earned the Washington Post’s photogs their Pulitzer click here.
I must admit that when I first read news of the deaths of Mr. Hetherington and Mr. Hondros I was a little annoyed…I wondered why they hell were they there? You’re not fighting, why are you there getting in the way? How much additional trouble is it going to be get their bodies out of that warzone? But a voice – yes, I have those in my head – prodded me that people like Mr. Hetherington and Mr. Hondros are necessary. They prove that a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures communicate in an instant what may be impossible to communicate with words. Tragedy in pictures. I began thinking about other defining photographs I could recall from memory. Sometimes they are war time pictures taken by distinguished people but others just capture a moment in time that many will not forget. There is this from 1995, which was also a TIME magazine cover
I was home that day of the OKC terrorist attack and Grandma called to check on me…still recall the shock I felt as I watched and described to her what was going on. Then as now I cannot understand the evil that abides in some people.
National Geographic’s iconic photograph (1984) of an Afghan girl as part of the coverage of war in Afghanistan…will that country ever know peace…
Hurricane Katrina, where folks were forgotten and became refugees in their own country
I remember seeing images like this one on the TV and wondering why the hell (yes even at age 7) the birds were all black
Exxon Valdez held the record for the most gallons of oil spilled in U.S. waters until Deepwater Horizon‘s valve blew out.
April 20, 2011 was the one year “anniversary” of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico…to say that recovery is ongoing in the Gulf is an understatement. From the economic and societal disruption to the health effects and ecological disaster (I shudder at what the sea floor looks like) the true cost of the Deepwater blowout, like Exxon Valdez, will not be known for years.
Earth Day 2011 is celebrated on April 22 – tomorrow; go pick up some trash in your neighbourhood and remember to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Help Mother Earth out, she demands and deserves it.