Honored to have my photo chosen in the 2013 New York Times year-ender. It was a tough year, physically and emotionally, with months covering the aftermath of Haiyan. The perseverance and hope of the thousands of survivors will continue to become an inspiration for all of us.
As I immersed myself in these dozens of photos from the past year, I kept thinking about what happened to my Aunt Shirley and her family more than 30 years ago. I was a senior in college when she and three of her children were murdered by an arsonist who set fire to their tenement in Haverhill, Mass. What I recall most intensely from that dark week is one of Shirley’s younger sisters seething in front of the television cameras from Boston, keening with tears of rage and grief, craving revenge.
Over and over, as I looked at these photographs, I saw the same fury and misery that had stricken Aunt Shirley’s sister, her feral lust to get even.
I saw it in Aleppo and Nairobi, in Boston and Tehran. I saw it after typhoons and tornadoes, in refugee camps and in the rubble of collapsed buildings. But I learned as I looked that it’s better to see the living shackled to the rack of their unspeakable emotions than to watch those who are entombed in blank stoicism.
Also, these photos make the reader more human amid the infinite bombast of our electronic infotainment. The mind-numbing media avalanche threatens to make war, terrorism and catastrophe banal, to turn the maimed and the dead into mere meat, as abstract as Lady Gaga’s gown of raw beef. What many of the pictures here do, though, is turn the shallow creeks of the general into the profound deeps of the particular — shocking us awake.