From The New York Times Magazine: New York Times Executive Editor and OPC President’s Award recipient Bill Keller talks with Joao Silva and Greg Marinovich about what animates and terrifies combat photographers.
This has been a grievous season for the tight-knit tribe of combat photographers. For The Times, the sorrow began last October, when a land mine exploded under Joao Silva while he was shooting pictures of an American patrol near Kandahar, Afghanistan, destroying both of his legs and shredding his intestinal tract. This spring, three other photographers working for The Times — Jehad Nga, Tyler Hicks and Lynsey Addario — were among the numerous journalists who disappeared into the custody of Libyan state thugs, where they were beaten and terrorized before we could negotiate their release. The darkness deepened by several hues last month when two admired lensmen — Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros — were killed while embedded with Libya’s hapless rebel militia.
Covering conflict is perilous for anyone — reporters, local stringers, the drivers and interpreters we depend on — but photographers are more exposed, in at least two senses of the word. They need a sustained line of sight to frame their photographs; a reliable source is never enough. And they cannot avert their eyes; they have to let the images in, no matter how searing or disturbing. Robert Capa’s famous advice to younger photographers — “Get closer” — translates in combat to “get more vulnerable,” both literally and emotionally.