Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A decade of sheer talent with a side of raw luck

Tyler Hicks in Afghanistan this week • C. J. Chivers/The New York Times

Tyler Hicks has been photographing the war in Afghanistan for ten years now. Take some time to read this outstanding NYT appreciation of his person and his work that ran in the Times this week.

Techman and I just saw The Bang Bang Club, which ties in. (I'm late to the party on the book. Maybe I'll read it some day.) It's about a bunch of different professionals just like Hicks. Well. They aren't as lucky as Hicks.... Of the original four, there are two guys left—and Joao Silva stepped on a land mine in Libya in April and blew his legs off. (He continued to photograph from the ground.) The other, Greg Marinovich recently was on the PR rounds of the 10-year anniversary of the book and said after being shot four times and coming out mostly fine, he realized he was running out of E-tickets and should quit while he's ahead.

I thought it was a great movie about what photojournalists do to get us the news we merely glance at. (Don't ask me about the picture editor, seriously: a picture editor who doesn't understand why a photographer tells a story but is able to protect all of the shooters from Apartheid harassment? Seriously? I'd bet the book depicted her far more judiciously.)

Hicks is really well known; his dad is friends with a pal of my dad's, they are scared to death for him every day. I can't imagine. I was putting Starboy to bed last night, and as he was asking for "sides" and asking me to "hold him small," I couldn't imagine him, grown, choosing to dash in front of bullets every day like that, in a place where a single misstep can cost you your life or your quality of life or your livelihood. I am grateful for Hicks and Silva, and Dan Eldon, and Nachtwey and the rest for their reports; they are so important to how we understand our world.

But in some ways I hope that Starboy is not such a successful journalist when he grows up. I don't want him to live and work in peril, selfishly I can't bear the thought of his beautiful rich life snatched away and squandered by greedy thieves.

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