Tag Archives: Disaster

The Story Behind the Iconic Photograph from Sandy Hook

At 9:59 last Friday morning, Shannon Hicks pulled her 2006 Jeep Wrangler off the road just outside Sandy Hook Elementary school. As associate editor and photographer for Newtown, Connecticuts local paper, The Newtown Bee, she was responding to a radio dispatch heard over a local police scanner.

I thought it was going to be a false alarm, Hicks tells TIME, remembering the call last week. Gunshots fired inside an elementary school? No. seo marketing . Excellent SEO service . Not here, she thought.

But as she pulled up to the school, what she saw and heard removed all doubt.

The New York Times/Newseum

Parents just started yelling their childrens names, remembers Hicks, careful to grab her camera off the passenger seat as she climbed out of her vehicle and into the chaos of the scene.

The screams echoed loudly as Hicks tried to stay focused, composing each image though the eyepiece of her camera. She remembers watching a state trooper drive past her, get out of his vehicle, don his flak jacket, and announce to the panicked crowd that the scene was not secure.

She snapped frames of police and emergency personnel rushing to the school as well as of anxious parents already on scene pressed against police barriers, straining to see if their children had emerged from the building. Among armed police officers and weeping parents, she kept watch, diligently clicking the shutter.

At 10:09 am, 10 minutes after she climbed out of her vehicle, she snapped the shutter on an elementary school class being led out of the school by two Connecticut State Police officers.

I knew that, coming out of the building as terrified as they were those children were safe, Hicks said, of the photograph soon to grace the front pages of newspapers, magazines, and nearly every breaking news website around the world. I just felt that it was an important moment.

The picture wasnt sensational or disturbing, said Hicks, but it captured a feeling at least for the subjects and their families of relative safety amidst a maelstrom of fear and the harrowing unknown.

Los Angeles Times/Newseum

For the children freed from the school, parents rushed to their side, sweeping them up in firm embraces as they walked the 1100 feet to the nearby fire station. Hicks, camera in hand, followed them every step.

Ive heard from a few adults who anonymously called us [at The Newton Bee], and said it was very, very wrong to publish that one photograph. Hicks said, But Ive also had people come up to me mothers in particular whove said that the photograph was important because it showed that those children were safe.

By 11:30 that morning, Hicks, who is also a volunteer firefighter in Newtown, had passed the baton to another reporter from the paper, and had returned to the Bees office to coordinate the coverage.

There, for the next week, the small editorial staff would pull near-24 hour shifts, updating the website the paper is published weekly with news, community response and the obituaries of the 27 victims left in Fridays wake.

As a journalist, Hicks is proud to have documented the event, but issues caution to many media outlets now trolling the grounds in Newtown.

There are different levels of journalism out there, and ours [at The Bee] is not to follow people when they go to the funeral home, or the cemetery. We dont go knocking on the doors of victims of anything, said Hicks. Its very hard for us to watch other journalists do this to our neighbors.

Regarding her photographs popularity for lack of a better term Hicks said it came as a surprise and brings little personal relief. It is the cache of photographs buried on her cameras memory card, she said, that are hardest to look at and impossible to forget.

Im sure I will look through them someday, Hicks said, cognizant that the photographs she took that morning are now part of history.I just kind of wish that there were some that I could erase from my memory.”

Sandy’s Aftermath: Devastation in Staten Island by Eugene Richards

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.


Eugene Richards is an award-winning American photographer. LightBox previously featured his project and book, ‘War is Personal.’

Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.

More photos: The Toil After the Storm: Life in Sandy’s Wake



Pictures of the Week, January 13 – January 20

From Costa Concordia’s sinking and dog sled races in France to Chinese New Year celebrations and a panda farewell, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

Grace and Power: Bending Over Backwards to Reach the Olympics

The routines of gymnasts are precious ones—a matter of inches separate a perfect performance from a complete disaster. From landing back handsprings on a four-inch-wide balance beam to sticking triple twists within the white border of a floor mat, gymnasts must balance aerobatics with precision.

An international competition at the North Greenwich Arena in London that runs through Jan. 18 is giving Olympic hopefuls one final chance to qualify across all three disciplines—artistic, trampoline and rhythmic—for this summer’s Games. It also affords Olympic photographers a chance to perfect their angles and hone their artist approach at a venue where qualifying athletes will perform in London this summer. Herewith, TIME presents a gallery of images from this week’s event, which creatively captures the power and grace that merit a perfect 10.

TIME’s Best of 2011: Animals in Peril

Animals have found themselves in the path of peril and at the heart the some of the biggest news stories over the past twelve months, from the Japanese tsunami and Bangkok floods to the war in Libya and the droughts in Africa. While some animals have been sent into the danger zone, the majority of these creatures have simply had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, victims of circumstance, and at the mercy of nature’s wrath or man’s violent feuds.

When U.S. special-forces stormed a compound and killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the story behind the story was that of the anonymous four-legged member of the eighty-strong team: a bulletproof vest-wearing K-9 military working dog that had taken part in the raid. Elsewhere, the mascot dogs of the Athens protests—Kanellos, Louk and Loukanikos, or”Sausage”—have been photographed countless times amid the protests. The subject of the online world’s attention, the canines have a dedicated Facebook and Wikipage, and are featured in numerous YouTube videos.

The average animal doesn’t make headlines, but countless creatures have been photographed amid the chaos and destruction so widely connected to some of the year’s biggest stories. Here, LightBox looks back on a few furry friends who’ve found themselves in harm’s way in 2011.

TIME’s Best Photojournalism of 2011

Sometimes words just aren’t enough. We realize that’s a bold statement for a news magazine to make. After all, words are our currency. Yet we know that there are times when, to fully tell the stories that need to be shared, we need more than words.

This year it was as evident as ever. From the tsunami in Japan, to the war in Afghanistan, to the Arab Spring, our reporters, columnists and correspondents worked tirelessly to bring you the stories that matter. But beyond the words and interviews that filled our pages, our photojournalists sought out the pictures that told a deeper story. Whether they were behind the political scene like Diana Walker as she photographed Hillary Clinton aboard a military plane or risking life and limb like Yuri Kozyrev as he captured the conflict of Libya’s revolution, TIME’s dedicated photographers brought the stories to life.

In March, acclaimed TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey traveled to Japan to capture images in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami. A veteran photojournalist, even he found himself at a loss for words when trying to describe the country’s devastation. Yet in his hauntingly bleak images of ravaged towns and wounded families, we glimpsed what language failed to convey — and it was heart breaking.

TIME‘s words offer the important facts, clear-eyed insights and sharp analysis needed to understand the story. Our photojournalism offers the chance to not only see, but also feel the story. —Megan Gibson

30 documentary photos: Inside Fukushima "No Go" Zone

Despite Japanese government refusal of admittance to the 20 kilometer “No Go” Zone surrounding the devastation of the nuclear power plant of Fukushima Daiichi, Photojournalist Pierpaolo Mittica went inside the zone several times last July to document the situation. This seemed like a natural follow-up to his award-winning work and book covering the aftermath of the disaster at Chernobyl.

Lens Culture is honored to present 30 powerful images from this new investigation, along with text by the photographer. monster beats . Zits . See and read the whole story here in Lens Culture.

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Inside an abandoned house devastated by the Tsunami, from the series Fukushima “No Go” Zone. Pierpaolo Mittica

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Abandoned house, Namie city, from the series Fukushima “No Go” Zone. Pierpaolo Mittica

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TEPCO workers, from the series Fukushima “No Go” Zone. Pierpaolo Mittica

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Residents going back home to collect their belongings, Tomioka city. Pierpaolo Mittica

Photographer #341: Gerardo Montiel Klint

Gerardo Montiel Klint, 1968, Mexico, received a BFA in Product Design and studied photography at the Escuela Activa de Fotografia and Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. His main focus is staged photography. In recent years his work has revolved around the dark side of the human mind where, according to Gerardo, our true personality and primal instincts are hidden. His work revolves around the themes of good and evil, violence and desires. For the evil he refers to disaster, tragedy, ilness and despair. For the good he refers to the spiritual lighting, the miracle and heroism amongst others. He tries to make his images “hyperreal”, more real than reality itself, making the viewer a witness of a scene he or she is visually attending. Gerardo’s work has been exhibited and published internationally and is in various public collections. The following images come from the series Volutas de Humo, Primeros apuntes para una teoría del infierno and Desierto.


Website: www.gerardomontielklint.com