NY Times: Why We Publish Tyler Hicks’ “Brutal” Photos

Tyler Hicks’ photos of Yemeni children — skin and bones, listless, haunted — are “brutal,” the New York Times admits.

Yet, the paper said in a page 2 story in yesterday’s edition, editors felt they had to publish them.

Ahmed-Ibrahim al-Junid, a 5-month-old boy caught in the Yemeni tragedy. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

Hicks — the 1988 Staples High School graduate, whose images from war zones, catastrophes and natural disasters around the globe have won him awards including the Pulitzer Prize — takes enormous risks.

And, the Times says, it is the paper’s duty to bring disturbing, horrific stories to light.

Here, in the paper’s “Inside the Times” column, is the back story:

This is our job as journalists: to bear witness, to give voice to those who are otherwise abandoned, victimized and forgotten. And our correspondents and photographers will go to great lengths, often putting themselves in harm’s way, to do so.

This report, “The Tragedy of Saudi Arabia’s War,” was written by Declan Walsh, and the photographs were taken by Tyler Hicks. To bring it to you, they not only had to navigate their way through a country devastated by war but also through their own emotional trauma.

Then, after they filed their report, came the time for the hard discussions in New York City.

Times editors don’t decide lightly to publish pictures of the dead or the dying. The folders of photo editors bulge with powerful images that did not make the cut because they were considered too horrific, too invasive or too gratuitous.

The images we have now published out of Yemen may be as unsettling as anything we have used before. But there is a reason we made this decision.

Bassam Mohammed Hassan suffers from severe malnutrition in Yemen. (Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

The tragedy in Yemen did not grow out of a natural disaster. It is a slow-motion crisis brought on by leaders of other countries who are willing to tolerate extraordinary suffering by civilians to advance political agendas.

And yet somehow the vast catastrophe has failed to catch the world’s attention as much as the murder of a single man, the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

The story of Yemen and all its suffering is one that must be told, and as powerful as Declan’s writing is, it cannot be told in words only.

Yes, Tyler’s images are hard to look at. They are brutal. But they are also brutally honest. They reveal the horror that is Yemen today. You may choose not to look at them. But we thought you should be the ones to decide.

(Click here for the full New York Times story. Hat tip: John Karrel)