Tag Archives: Somalia

Tyler Hicks: Behind The Story

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.”

Tyler added:

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.

Tyler Hicks’ Somalia Photo Stirs Reactions

Four months ago, Westport native Tyler Hicks and 3 New York Times correspondents — including fellow Staples grad Lynsey Addario — were captured in Libya.

Last month Tyler was back in Africa, chronicling South Sudan‘s independence.

Now he’s in Somalia.  Yesterday the Times ran his harrowing photo of a starving child on Page 1.

According to the Huffington Post, the photo touched many hearts.

It outraged others.

Huffington Post reports:  “While jarring, Times executive editor Bill Keller told (us) that the decision to publish was ‘kind of a no-brainer.'”  The photo was “pretty much the consensus” of the top editors at the paper’s 4 p.m. meeting.

Keller added:

… We realize, of course, that the story du jour is the debt vote — to which we devoted the lead story and upwards of four pages this morning — but there’s no reason that has to eclipse a human catastrophe in Africa.  Readers can follow more than one important story at a time.  Jeffrey (Gettleman, the reporter) and Tyler went to great trouble and some risk to get as close as they could to the calamity in Somalia.  They sent us a harrowing story and vivid, arresting photographs.  We put them before the attention of our readers.  That’s our job.

Over 500 Huffington Post readers commented.  Many praised the Times’ decision — and Tyler’s photo.

One wrote:  “Guess it’s hard for some in their air conditioned rooms eating 3 good meals a day with a nice home to go to to see this reality huh?  Shame on us.”

Another said:  “How horrifically sad to be offended by the sight of a starving child.  Perhaps it is the conscience of those offended that pricks them so hard they cannot stand it.”

The Times’ website includes 15 heart-rending photos by Tyler, including this one:

(Photo/Tyler Hicks for the New York Times)

Click here for a full  — and haunting — slideshow.

Last night, Tyler was interviewed on the CBS Evening News, by anchor Scott Pelley.  Tyler described the dismal situation:

Everywhere in the city there are people streaming in.  Particularly the thing that jumped out at me were the amount of children and how incredibly frail they were.   There are women – every single one is carrying what looks like skin and bones and I honestly — there were moments that I didn’t notice that the child they were carrying was alive until they shifted and you could see that the child was moving.

Click here for the full CBS Evening News video.