Tag Archives: Joplin

Last Dance: American Proms by Gillian Laub

For kids and communities across America, prom night is both an enduring rite of passage and a sign of the times. This April, TIME commissioned photographer Gillian Laub to document this ritual in a journey that would take her across the country to Georgia, Missouri, Arizona, Oregon, New York and Massachusetts. In the resulting photo essay, “Last Dance,” Laub captured the bittersweet anticipation and excitement surrounding the annual tradition through a series of striking portraits of teenage prom attendees.

“Last Dance” is, in many ways, the culmination of a 10-year project for the New York City based photographer. One of the schools that appears in the essay, Montgomery County High School in Mount Vernon, Ga., first appeared on Laub’s radar when she traveled there in 2002 to photograph its homecoming festivities, then segregated by race, on an assignment with SPIN magazine. Seven years later, she returned to photograph Montgomery County High School’s prom, still segregated by race, for a project that was published by the New York Times magazine.

That would be the last time Montgomery County High School held a segregated prom, and Laub returned again this April to photograph students getting ready for just the third integrated event in the school’s history. “Naturally the first prom I photographed for the TIME essay was Montgomery County High School,” Laub says. “I wanted to follow the only biracial couple attending the prom. Only three years earlier they wouldn’t have been allowed to be each other’s dates.”

The word “prom” first appeared in 1894 in the journal of an Amherst College student going to a prom at Smith College nearby. In the century since, prom has become a distinctly high school tradition, a last chance for classmates to party together, before post-graduation plans send them in different directions. Today, as Laub’s pictures show, getting ready for prom plays as big a role as the dance itself; it plays out to big business, too. A 2012 survey predicted families would spend an average of $1,078 on prom, including costs for outfits, hair, makeup and manicures. The Dwight-Englewood girls wearing haute designers like Alice Temperley and Roberto Cavalli almost certainly spent much more, while many students from Joplin High School in Joplin, Mo.—the site of a devastating tornado a little over a year ago—arrived at prom in donated attire.

Proms represent other rites of passage too. On May 19 in Massachusetts, the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Youth hosted its 32nd annual prom—the nation’s oldest for GLBT youth—10 days after Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to endorse gay marriage.

“I love the ritual, the time, effort and thought about every detail of preparation to put their best foot forward,” says Laub about documenting proms. “It’s a moment in their lives of transition and hope.” For the students, yes, and perhaps for their schools and communities, too.

See more about proms in this week’s issue of TIME and on TIME.com.

Gillian Laub is a photographer based in New York and a frequent contributor to TIME. See more of her work here

Joplin: One Year After the Tornado

The satellite images of Joplin, Mo., that are available on Google Maps were taken within the last year, after the devastating tornado of May 22, 2011, that killed more than 160 people. Buildings across the city appear as matchsticks in those aerial views, which have been preserved by the Internet as the picture of Joplin.

But when photographer Greg Miller arrived in Joplin to photograph the city in the days leading up to the tornado’s one-year anniversary, it looked like everything had been fixed. “I had to ask somebody where the damage was,” he says. Miller, who says that Joplin is much larger than he expected and eventually drove out to the areas that are still putting themselves back together. “I realized that not by a long shot has everything been rebuilt.”

For one thing: there are no trees. That was, Miller says, the most dramatic evidence of the destruction. “They had tons of trees in that area and now the trees are either gone or stripped of their leaves,” he says.

It was in a cemetery that the extent of the damage really hit home for the photographer. He figured there were other priorities in the town and no way the people would take the time to right any monuments that had been knocked over—but, even as he thought that, he stumbled upon some men in the process of fixing the place up. “The guys were trying to figure out where the tombstones went. A 500-lb. tombstone, this piece of solid granite, had been tossed maybe 20 feet away,” he says. “Cars, much bigger than 500 lbs., were moved around too; maybe I’m a little numb to the pictures of cars. Seeing that stone…I thought, wow, that must been really a strong wind.”

It wasn’t just a reminder of the strength of the tornado itself. It was also a reminder of the strength of the people. After all, he didn’t actually see cars still piled up in the streets of Joplin. And some people, like a woman thankful for her Habitat for Humanity house who Miller met when photographing her two children waiting at the bus stop, managed to see a silver lining.

And that attitude fit with Miller’s photographic goals. There were still piles of debris, he says, and still empty foundations. There were sad moments to photograph, evidence of loss. But, for one thing, Miller felt like there were so many pictures of that destruction that there was no point making another. And for another, that felt like the old Joplin, the satellite-picture Joplin, not the Joplin of today.

“Definitely there was an upbeat mood in the town. Because of the anniversary, they don’t go to that dark place. They’re staying in this place of like, look, we’re going to make this happen,” he says. “One person I spoke to said it wiped Joplin off the map and then put it on the map.”

Greg Miller is a photographer based in New York City. See more of his work here.

Pictures of the Week: May 11 – May 18

From violence in Colombia and a huge fire in Manila to soccer championships across Europe and the presidential handover ceremony in France, TIME’s photo department presents the best images of the week.

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