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.
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
Last week, as protests once again raged in the streets of Cairo, Magnum photographer Moises Saman was there. Over three days, he documented the ongoing street battles near his residence in the Garden City area—right around the corner from the American Embassy and Tahrir Square.
With rocks and tear-gas canisters flying through the air, Saman understood that he only had a small window of time to work.
“If you’re putting yourself right in the middle, eventually you’ll get hit,” he said. “You have to work fast.”
Taking cover behind a burnt car, Saman photographed protestors in the streets early on the morning of Sept. 14th. It was there that he shot the photograph featured as the opening Worldview spread in this week’s issue of TIME. Police and protestors had clashed throughout the night, following a string of unrest earlier in the day that had resulted in the attack of the American Embassy. Arriving at the protests, Saman found a varied scene.
“It was around 7 or 8 am,” he told TIME, “and the mood was tense. There were not many photographers around—I was one of the only foreigners.”
The street gleamed with pools of water from police water cannons, reflecting men standing defiantly in the street. Improvised tools of outrage littered the roadway: stones, chunks of concrete, burned-out vehicles and broken tree branches.
In the background, lines of men fanned out, some with arms crossed, others recording the spectacle with their cell phones. Taking advantage of a brief lull, several sat on the curb, nursing their exhaustion from a long night of clashes and tear-gas.
Moving quickly, Saman photographed young men as they scavenged for stones. Working in the no man’s land between the groups, the photographer needed to turn his back to police in order to capture the action in front of him. Although security forces weren’t firing live ammunition, the risk of injury was still high: “Getting hit with a rock will ruin your day,” he jokes.
Living in Cairo for the past year has taught Saman that he can’t afford the luxury of hanging around a scene waiting for the best light and peak action. It’s often when one lingers too long that problems can arise.
“You need to work quickly,” he said. “You need to work with purpose.”
Tropical Storm Isaac led organizers to cancel Monday’s lineup at the Republican National Convention, but protests in Tampa went ahead mostly as planned. Some protesters even camped out in the rain on a rented lot, dubbed “Romneyville.” Some met up with a larger group of several hundred activists and “Occupiers,” who marched one mile from Perry Harvey Park to the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where Republican delegates are gathering this week. Hoisting placards and chanting slogans, protesters from as far as California registered their disapproval of the GOP ticket throughout the day. Security was intense. Photographer Grant Cornett was on scene to capture the scene.
Adam Sorensen is an Associate Editor at TIME covering politics.
A huge, colorful mural of the men Egyptian youth activists know as feloolregime remnantsadorns a buildings wall on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in downtown Cairo. Branching off of the now iconic Tahrir Square, Mohamed Mahmoud leads to the dreaded Interior Ministry. A number of bloody clashes between protesters and Egyptian security forces have taken place here in the year and a half since a popular uprising ended the 30-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak and launched the Arab worlds largest country into a tumultuous transition. Search Engine Optimization . To Egypts budding generation of revolutionary street artists, these walls are prime real estate for political expression.
Omar Fathi, the 26-year-old art student, who painted the mural with a set of cheap plastic paints last February, conceived of the idea after a deadly soccer riot had led to another series of clashes between police and protesters, leaving more than 80 people dead. Like much of his art, it was an image borne of frustration. Many of the youth protesters had blamed the ruling military and the police forces under its command for the deadly soccer riot and the ensuing violence as anger spread to the streets. directory submission . To Fathi, it was further evidence of the states failure to govern and protectsomething he had grown accustomed to under Mubarak, but that he and other youth activists and members of his Revolution Artists Union say has only continued under military rule. Basically it represents the situation we are in, nothing has changed since the fall of the regime, he says. Its the same leadershipthe face has changed, but the rest is still the same.
The mural depicts a split faceon the right, the scowling visage of ousted President Hosni Mubarak; and on the left, the man he once appointed to run his military, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi. As the head of Egypts powerful military council, Tantawi has been Egypts de facto ruler since Mubarak stepped down in February 2011.
Shortly after Fathi painted his masterpiece, someonehe suspects from the military painted over it. To spite them, he painted it again. When it was painted over a second time, he re-painted it a third, this time adding the faces of two presidential candidates, Amr Moussa, and Ahmed Shafik. Both men had served in Mubaraks regime. And the run-off to the presidential election this month pit Ahmed Shafik against a candidate from the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood, in a tense face-off that some activists characterized as a battle between the old order and the new; the military regime versus the revolution. In the end, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy won. But Tantawi and his military council have ensured that Morsy only wields certain presidential powers; the military controls the rest. And Fathi says hell keep painting. Our contribution [to the revolution] is to portray the demands of the revolution through art. This has been our role since the eighteen days [of the uprising], he says. We serve the revolution through art, and we will keep illustrating our demands.
Sharaf al-Hourani is a news assistant for TIME Magazine in Cairo.