From protests in Egypt and life in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict to Myanmar’s refugee camps and volcanic lava spilling into the ocean in Hawaii, TIME presents the best pictures of the week.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, unveiled their survey of war photography, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath, on Armistice Day yesterday. The FT Weekend magazine featured some of the work from the exhibition in their latest issue. You can view the FT article and slideshow here. You can also read about the show over at Photo District News, which interviewed the exhibition’s curators.
Below war in Iraq photograph from 2003 by Yuri Kozyrev, which FT Weekend ran as a double truck.
Yuri Kozyrev (Russian, b. 1963) is a member of Noor Images and a contract photographer with Time magazine.
TIME assigned photographer Eugene Richards to document the devastation on Staten Island following Superstorm Sandy. Over four days, Richards recorded the total destruction in the communities along the island’s South Shore, illustrating the storm’s deep impact across the entire borough.
Richards spoke to LightBox producer Vaughn Wallace about his experience on assignment. Their conversation has been edited.
Vaughn Wallace: Talk to me about first arriving on Staten Island.
Eugene Richards: The first set of pictures that we had are out in a swamp. It was a very surreal marsh, covered with what looked like totally submerged houses. About a half mile into this area, we found this woman — totally alone — standing there. Her name was Susan. I didn’t want to intrude — I think she was trying to contemplate the tragedy, the same way everybody is. She proceeded to kneel down on what was the roof of her father’s house…over one of the rooms.
Little American flags were appearing all over the place on Staten Island — I think out of desperation. Also I think it was a protest, because people were getting very angry at what they felt was a lack of services. I’d say 30% of the homes had flags on them in some capacity. They kept popping up – people would try to find flags and raise them on broomsticks in the middle of the street.
VW: You saw the flags as symbols of protest?
ER: As symbols of defiance. We were talking constantly with people about how the mood was so scarily positive. Everyone else said it was just positive, but we thought that underneath it was a level of shock that will settle in — people were working to help each other non-stop.
This area seemed like a neighborhood of particularly hardworking and professional people — they set to work right away, tearing out the insides of their houses with an energy that was amazing. They reminded me of worker bees. They were working very, very hard until the homes ultimately became shells.
VW: In some of these photographs, we see what you’re referencing. But what can we not see?
ER: What you can’t see in the photographs is the language. One of the more revealing pictures is of a man named Kevin working on Cedar Grove Ave. We went up to his house and there was a flag out front and a note about the marathon to people in the neighborhood — everyone was very mad that the marathon was going to happen.
And then out of the basement came this guy. We were very shy about approaching him — covered with dirt, steam coming off his head in the cold, with he and his wife cleaning out their entire house onto the pavement. He chose to write ‘Thanks Sandy’ on his house rather than the profanity that many would have written.
This is the way everyone was — [an attitude] you can’t see in the pictures. To feel the graciousness of everyone was surprising. Nobody was telling jokes, nobody was laughing, but there was much kindness. That’s what doesn’t show here: the calm utility of the people.
VW: How would you describe the disaster you witnessed over the weekend?
ER: In many cases, I think it’s the end of a way of life — the innocence is gone. Cedar Grove Beach — it was kind of a secret. You were close to the beach and it was beautiful…a very special opportunity for people who aren’t particularly wealthy to live a pretty good life.
Maybe that’s what speaks to us all. I don’t know about you, but the dream of all of us is to have a house on the beach. It’s my dream. I think that’s what speaks to a lot of people — these residents in their own way managed to live this dream and this is the result of it.
VW: You’ve photographed conflict and sadness throughout your career. How does this disaster compare to things you’ve witnessed elsewhere?
ER: It was different. Acceptance, first off, that this was nature — not a man-made tragedy. On the other hand, the difference is that people in other places I’ve gone to have nothing. These people [on Staten Island] had 20 to 30 years of things they’ve worked their asses off to have…the bulk of people were concerned with their photographs and irreplaceable personal things. The prom pictures, the family pictures, the few things they had left over from their heritage, their parents. That kind of thing was gone — much more devastating than anything else.
VW: One of your more powerful images is a pinboard of family photos that people had pulled out of the rubble.
ER: Curiously, I think in a way that the photographs have taken on another meaning, like proof that they exist in a certain way as people. Photographs have taken on a totem quality in our society, maybe more than they should. The photos do have a significance — that we exist and we have roots.
We were there when a man found a picture of his friend who died in 9/11 – a little snapshot. So he was very exceedingly happy.
VW: So in some ways, these photographs are proof of existence and proof of what used to be. Your photographs, then, amplify what these found objects are already saying.
ER: I think they were pleased that someone recognized they were alive.
Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.
More photos: The Toil After the Storm: Life in Sandy’s Wake
Working from different locations across the Atlantic seaboard, they captured ordinary people getting ready to greet the superstorm. And when Sandy made landfall the night of Oct. 29, they braved rising floodwaters, high winds and driving sheets of rain to photograph the storm’s impact on several communities.
Keep following @TIME on Instagram for the latest photos filed by our photographers, and check back on LightBox for more of our storm coverage throughout the week.
For the latest news on superstorm Sandy, follow TIME’s live coverage.
Craig F. Walker’s 2012 Pulitzer prize in Feature Photography winning series ‘Welcome Home – The Story of Scott Ostrom’ featured today in The Sunday Times Magazine’s Spectrum section.
Text on the spread: The Aftermath. Since he was discharged from the US Marines five years ago, suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder, Brian Scott Ostrom has been unable to hold down a job or maintain healthy relationships at home in Boulder, Colorado. These pictures are part of a Pulitzer prize-winning study by the photographer Craig F. Walker. Ostrom is seen arguing with his girlfriend (bottom centre right) and alone afterwards (bottom centre left and top right). He has attempted suicide – below he examines the scars.
The project in its entirety can be viewed on the Denver Post’s website here.
You can also see a video of Walker speaking about the work right after the Pulitzer prize was announced.
Back in 2008, photographer Larry Towell’s agency, Magnum Photos, had contacted him about a project in Afghanistan that would require him to embed with the British military. Towell, having just completed work in Palestine, decided that he didn’t want to see Afghanistan for the first time with an embed, and instead set forth to see the country on his own. “It was important for me to learn more about the history of Afghanistan to get some perspective about what’s going on today and see if I even had anything to say,” says Towell, who was later awarded a Magnum Emergency Fund to aid his work. From 2008 to 2011, Towell traveled to Afghanistan five times, documenting in both photographs and videos the various social issues that plague its citizens, from drug addiction and poverty to the prevalence of landmines, many of which still remain from the Soviet occupation of the country during the 1980s.
Larry Towell, Afghanistan: Military
Through five harrowing videos (three of which are shown here), Towell gives viewers a comprehensive look at life for citizens inside conflict-riddled Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the photographs from this project are on display for the first time in Larry Towell: Danger and Aftermath at the Museum London in Southwestern Ontario through April 1. “I wanted to look more at the social problems before I looked at what was going on militarily,” the photographer says. “The victims of the war weren’t just people who were wounded. They were the people living in the rural areas who were forced into the cities without means.”
Larry Towell, Afghanistan: Amputees
Towell is now at work with Aperture to turn his pictures into a book by spring 2013. The poignant publication date means Towell’s recent documentation of the country will be on display just as U.S. forces are expected to end their combat role in Afghanistan.
Larry Towell is a Candian photographer represented by Magnum Photos. Larry Towell: Danger and Aftermath is on display through April 1 at the Museum London in Southwestern Ontario. All images, video and sound ©Larry Towell—Magnum.