Last August, the New York Times published a striking Page 1 photo by staff photographer — and Westport native — Tyler Hicks.
The shot showed a starving Somali child, tucked in a fetal position. Its graphic nature stirred an internet controversy.
In today’s “The Story Behind the Story” — an email feature “exclusively for Times subscribers” — Tyler explains how he took the photo, and why he felt its publication was important.
The worst cases of starvation, Tyler wrote, occurred at a crowded hospital.
That’s where I found the hardest hit, mostly children, some unable to walk or even sit up, others vomiting and all suffering from dysentery. In the hallway every available surface was used for another sick child. I’ve seen bad conditions in hospitals, but this was one of the worst.
Swarms of flies infested the mouths and eyes of children too weak to move. Their parents spent the day swatting the flies away from them and doing whatever else they could to keep them alive. I photographed a father carrying his lifeless daughter, wrapped in cloth, out of the hospital for burial.
He had to work quickly. He did. His shot, he knew, “would give proof of how desperate the situation had become.”
I enthusiastically support the image chosen for Page 1. The public reaction was overwhelmingly positive, and a reminder of the impact The Times can generate – not only among our readers, but also among other news media organizations and humanitarian aid groups.
This is an example of the raw, unfiltered definition of news photography. It doesn’t happen every day, and it might not come your way in the course of a year.
But sometimes you land on a story, a cause, something that has meaning to you, and the resulting photographs have an impact. They are seen and spur reaction.
In a digital age, that’s when you’re reminded of the impact that a still, motionless photograph can have.