August 8, 2011
I don’t often share other people’s pictures on this blog, but with the continued crisis in the Horn and the lack of press it is getting in the United States I wanted to share with you an article the New York Times ran on its front page last week featuring the work of the amazing photographer Tyler Hicks. On last Tuesday when most newspapers ran a photograph of congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford returning home on their covers the NYT made the courageous choice to put some very graphic images on page one and finally give the crisis in the Horn the coverage it deserves.
Compassion fatigue is a real issue that all of us face. I spent years studying how to beat it. How to get people to care about something when there are too many things to care about. We all get tired and want to enjoy life. I understand that and feel that way too a lot of the time. However, sometimes when something really drastic is happening in the world- like when 1.25 million children on the brink of starvation at this very moment I think it is time that we all sit up and force ourselves to pay attention. In June of 1945 Vogue printed some of the first images to come out of the concentration camps taken by the photographer Lee Miller. When the women of America flipped to page 104 and 105 of their Vogue that June they were confronted with the images of emaciated limbs jutting out in all directions and a man strung up by his neck, his body bludgeoned and swollen. The headline to accompany these images was simply: “Believe it.” (A quote from the wire Miller had sent Vogue’s art director Alexander Lieberman). Lee Millers images of starved concentration camp victims have a haunting resemblance to Tyler Hick’s images from Somalia. How courageous Lieberman was to print those images in an unconventional forum and make people sit up straight. I can’t see Anna Wintour printing Hick’s images in the September Issue, but maybe other newspapers, news magazines, TV stations, and blogs can start giving this crisis the attention it deserves.
The news has clearly decided that Somalia is too touchy of a subject and have made a deliberate choice not to cover it. As many of you know my next big project I am focusing on is photographing Bonobos in the Congo. I am currently doing a lot of research about the Congo trying to understand how it got the way it did in order for me to feel more comfortable about going there. It seems really clear to me that one of the main causes of the current turmoil in the country can be traced back to the post ’94 influx of refugees from Rwanda and the poor handling of the refugee camps by the UN and foreign NGO’s. Militias were springing up everywhere and no one knew what to do or how to help. The same problem is happening today in Somalia where the refugee camps are being held hostage by militias and so many NGO’s can’t reach starving people in crisis. UNICEF is the only charity at this moment that has been given permission to go into Al-Shabaab controlled areas and help the children in dire need. We need to educate ourselves and educate each other. Show the media that we want to know what is going on in our world around us and we deserve to be educated about the truth. This problem will not go away on its own. If we do nothing to help now not only are we allowing innocent children to die today, we are allowing this crisis to follow in the footsteps of the Congo and who knows what that means for the future of the people of the Horn.
Please take a moment to view the slideshow of images taken by the amazing documentary photographer Tyler Hicks for the New York Times. Some of them are graphic and disturbing, but I urge you to look at them and share them with others.