Tag Archives: Tragedy

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



Feria de Libros in Lima

The same Feria de Libros that I blogged about last year came to Lima a couple of weeks ago as part of the ongoing Photography Biennial. The feria, which is run by Argentine artist Julieta Escardó, features small, independently published books, mostly from photographers in Argentina, although this edition included several books by Peruvian photographers.

Feria de Libros in Lima

Feria de Libros in Lima

The fair was held at the Centro de la Imagen. Unlike the version in Buenos Aires, here, none of the books were for sale. It was a bit like an Alexandrian library only, instead of copying scrolls of papayrus, I sat there with my digital camera snapping photos of pages from books that I liked.

Here’s a few:

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde was my favorite book. It documents various decaying buildings from the 19th century and before in Lima’s historic core.

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde

Epitafios by Gladys Alavardo Jourde

Something that I find interesting about both Lima and Buenos Aires is that each, with over a third of their respective countrys’ population, dominate all aspects industry, culture, politics and finance. It’s like each city is New York, Detroit, Los Angeles, and Washington all rolled into one. Depending on where you go  you can find elements that resonate with each. In the case of Lima, new development has shunned the historic core and a bounce-back wave of gentrification has yet to occur. In this situation, there’s a huge number of historic buildings which sit in a rather shabby state. Alvarado’s book does an execellent job of documenting both the beauty of these spaces, their inhabitants, and the tragedy of their decay. Also, the book dummy on view was really wonderfully printed. I hope it gets published.

Lucila Heinberg’s (Argentina) book Hacia recounts her journey in through China. Using expired film, the photos show a very personal, intimate view of her experiences in China.

Lucila Heinberg – Hacia

Lucila Heinberg – Hacia

Lucila Heinberg – Hacia

Lucila Heinberg – Hacia

Galeria Centrico has a small online gallery of this work. I also blogged about Heinberg’s series Dormidos last year.

David Mansell-Moullin’s book Lines in the Sand looks at peripheral settlements in Lima and how they sit on the landscape.

David Mansell-Moullin – Lines in the Sand

David Mansell-Moullin – Lines in the Sand

The subject matter is similar to Musuk Note’s Decierto series which I blogged about recently but is less abstract, more into the nuts and bolts of how these plots of land get developed by their inhabitants. Mansell-Moullin’s website has a nice slideshow of the work and he’s also got a blog detailing a lot of his work process.

Futuramic by Aldo Paparella (great name!) features lucious black and white photographs of retro-futuristic automobiles from the 1950s.

Aldo Paparella – Futuramic

Aldo Paparella – Futuramic

I got really excited to see that Martin Weber’s Ecos del Interior has been published by Ediciones Lariviere. I hope this makes it to the US so I can get a copy.

Martin Weber – Ecos del Interior

Italian photojournalist Myriam Meloni has a book, Fragil, documenting the social decay resulting from paco use in Buenos Aires (paco is their version of crack).

Myriam Meloni – Fragil

Myriam Meloni – Fragil

Myriam Meloni – Fragil

There sems to be a whole sub-genre of photographers documenting their grandparent’s homes. I suppose the combination of nostalgia + access is irrisistible. By my count, there were four books dealing with this theme at the book fair, the nicest of which was Bulnes by Luciana Betesh.

Luciana Betesh – Bulnes

Luciana Betesh – Bulnes

Luciana Betesh – Bulnes

There were a ton more books, of course. It’s a great fair and my only complaint is that it isn’t held more often and in more places.

At the Hour of Our Death

Video by Mark & Angela Walley, Photographs by Sarah Sudhoff

One of photography’s distinctive qualities is its ability to reveal subjects that are invisible to the eye. But carefully considered images can also make visible ideas that we find difficult to think about or discuss. Dying, for example, is an act that is frequently shielded from view, presumably to protect the living from facing fears of what happens when life ceases to be. Sarah Sudhoff’s At the Hour of Our Death, takes as its starting point writer Phillipe Aries’ observation that “death’s invisibility enhances its terror”.

Like most of her work, these pictures are inspired by personal experience. As a teenager Sudhoff lost a friend to suicide. While visiting his home after learning of the tragedy, she witnessed a clean up crew efficiently removing all physical traces of his final moments—the stuff of death we prefer to quietly avoid. Brightly illuminated and full of vibrant color, Sudhoff’s large-scale photos present swatches of bedding, carpet and upholstery marked with the signs of a passing life. Seemingly grim at first blush, the series is a fascinating and beautiful work of conceptual art. By making abstract the thing we fear most, Sudhoff brings it into stark focus.

LightBox 365: A Year in Photographs

2011 was packed with drama and shock, tragedy and surprise. How history will judge these 12 months is another question: historians usually come at things once all the men and women behind the news are gone. But those of us who have followed the twists and turns of 2011 know how much it has gotten into our sinews and our psyches—from the sting of tear gas to the ambivalence of long delayed vengeance.

LightBox has compiled this yearbook for 2011, literally picking a photo for each day of this astonishing year. It is a remarkable memorial to its high and low points, to agony and to exhilaration. But let the pictures speak for themselves.

-Howard Chua-Eoan, news director, TIME

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