Original Good Men Project contributor Michael Kamber, a three-time Pulitzer Prize–nominated photojournalist, continues to make us proud. (Kamber contributed a story to the Good Men Project book, and a review of The Tillman Story for the magazine.) In a story that appeared in The New York Times today, he recounts the courage and sacrifice of his friend and fellow photojournalist, Joao Silva.
Silva, a South African contract photographer for The New York Times, covered the Iraq and Afghanistan from the front lines. In October, while on patrol with a unit of the Fourth Infantry Division outside Kandahar, Afghanistan, he stepped on a mine, losing his legs and suffering severe internal injuries. A testament to his devotion to his craft, Silva was able to snap three photos following the blast. He is recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. A fund and a website have been set up to help him and his family as he recovers.
Kamber, who took Silva’s place in Afghanistan, reminds us of the critical role photographers play in exposing the grim realities of war:
I grew up in the 1960s, learning of Vietnam by poring over black-and-white photos in Life magazine and The Portland Press Herald. The classic images of Eddie Adams, Nick Ut, and Henri Huet brought home to me the politics and drama of the war, a sense of my country’s history unfolding on the page. Photojournalists gave us a visceral understanding of the link between foreign policy and the violence done to people’s lives.
And photojournalism helped create a culture of visual literacy that was instrumental in the activism of the 1960s. It is a culture that is slowly receding into a storm of visual, aural, and written white noise: the weekly wait for Life is replaced by a stream of cellphone photos, blogs, and Twitter feeds. And as papers close around America, front-line photojournalism is in decline.
Still, the frustrations of photojournalists today are outweighed by many rewards. We venture into remote corners of the world to watch incredible dramas. We are often the sole objective witnesses. We find that much history would happen in a vacuum, save for our cameras.
“I get a lot of messages from people saying that we show the world what they cannot go see firsthand,” Joao told me last year.
This is the reward and the magic of photojournalism.
At GMPM, we are thankful for the courage and sacrifice of Silva, Kamber, and other photojournalists, who risk their lives to capture the realities of war.