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Photographs To Cover Cost Of Medical Bills

One of the more iconic images to come out of Afghanistan this year is not your average war photograph. It shows a small doll's foot sticking out of an American private's vest. A friend gave it to him after surviving a combat tour in Iraq — attributing survival to the "lucky foot."

Pvt. 1st Class Edwin Laplaunt carries a "lucky doll's foot" in Afghanistan

This photograph of Pvt. 1st Class Edwin Laplaunt in Afghanistan was taken by Joao Silva -- just before an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was detonated in Kandahar province. Silva lost both legs below the knees in the incident. Laplaunt was carrying a doll's foot for good luck -- given to him by a friend who survived a tour of duty in Iraq, attributing survival to the lucky foot. Joao Silva hide caption

itoggle caption Joao Silva

It is the last photograph Joao Silva took in October, just before losing both of his legs in a catastrophic landmine explosion. Silva, an award-winning New York Times photographer, is now recovering in Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. Meanwhile, to help defray the costs of his medical treatment, his friends recently organized an auction in Johannesburg of some of his most famous photographs.

Greg Marinovich, Silva's long-time friend and fellow photographer, has been the main force behind the cause to support Silva. He was also there in southern Afghanistan at the time of the explosion, and recently visited Silva in the hospital.

"You know, it's operation after operation," Marinovich says, "But spiritually he's strong." It's most likely that spiritual strength that earned Silva, along with Marinovich and a few others, their┬ánickname: "The Bang Bang Club," a handful of photographers who risked their lives working during the violent days of South Africa's anti-apartheid struggle — and after.

  • Joao Silva's photographs provide coverage of the South African apartheid struggle.
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    Joao Silva's photographs provide coverage of the South African apartheid struggle.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • Zulu Inakatha Freedom Party members evacuate a train after a rally, South Africa, 1990s. In 2000, Silva co-authored The Bang-Bang Club with Greg Marinovich, an account of the press photographers who covered the end of the apartheid era in South Africa.
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    Zulu Inakatha Freedom Party members evacuate a train after a rally, South Africa, 1990s. In 2000, Silva co-authored The Bang-Bang Club with Greg Marinovich, an account of the press photographers who covered the end of the apartheid era in South Africa.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • Victims of train violence, often by covert South African security forces. Silva's career began at the Alberton Record, a local paper in South Africa. He later worked for the The Star, a Johannesburg daily newspaper, before joining the Associated Press in 1994.
    Hide caption
    Victims of train violence, often by covert South African security forces. Silva's career began at the Alberton Record, a local paper in South Africa. He later worked for the The Star, a Johannesburg daily newspaper, before joining the Associated Press in 1994.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • A sniper loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr fires towards U.S. positions in the cemetery in Najaf, Iraq, 2004.
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    A sniper loyal to Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr fires towards U.S. positions in the cemetery in Najaf, Iraq, 2004.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • An Iraqi on his canoe in the Kurmashia marsh in southern Iraq, 2004
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    An Iraqi on his canoe in the Kurmashia marsh in southern Iraq, 2004
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • Sgt. Jesse E. Leach assists Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez Castillo after he was shot by a sniper during a joint patrol with the Iraqi Army in Karmah, Anbar Province, Iraq. Valdez was shot through the arm and the right side but survived. 2006
    Hide caption
    Sgt. Jesse E. Leach assists Lance Cpl. Juan Valdez Castillo after he was shot by a sniper during a joint patrol with the Iraqi Army in Karmah, Anbar Province, Iraq. Valdez was shot through the arm and the right side but survived. 2006
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • A child in this undated photograph washes clothes in a stream in Malawi.
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    A child in this undated photograph washes clothes in a stream in Malawi.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • Ayam Mohamed, 19, a female combatant in Madhi Army who fought against U.S. soldiers, holds a portrait of Moqtada al Sadr during an interview with The New York Times at her home in Sadr city, 2004.
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    Ayam Mohamed, 19, a female combatant in Madhi Army who fought against U.S. soldiers, holds a portrait of Moqtada al Sadr during an interview with The New York Times at her home in Sadr city, 2004.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • Baghdad residents swim and bathe in the Tigris River, 2004.
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    Baghdad residents swim and bathe in the Tigris River, 2004.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • An apartment deserted by fleeing occupants during bombing raid in the Lebanon-Israel war. Nabatiya, Lebanon, 2006
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    An apartment deserted by fleeing occupants during bombing raid in the Lebanon-Israel war. Nabatiya, Lebanon, 2006
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • n Iraqi man dressed in ancient battle gear lifts a child during a procession through the streets of Kerbala. The men in red are playing the role of the killer of Imam Hussein, while the child is supposed to represent Hussein's child who was also killed. Kerbala, Iraq, 2004
    Hide caption
    n Iraqi man dressed in ancient battle gear lifts a child during a procession through the streets of Kerbala. The men in red are playing the role of the killer of Imam Hussein, while the child is supposed to represent Hussein's child who was also killed. Kerbala, Iraq, 2004
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich
  • In Iraq, a man gesticulates at discarded shells, from which explosive material is extracted to made improvised bombs.
    Hide caption
    In Iraq, a man gesticulates at discarded shells, from which explosive material is extracted to made improvised bombs.
    Photographs by Joao Silva/Courtesy of Greg Marinovich

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"The photographs from the '90s are really an important part of South Africa's history," Pete Beckwell says, a bidder at the Johannesburg auction. "Some of them are beautiful images — and they capture some of the horror of that time." For people like Beckwell, Silva's photographs are a reminder of where South Africans came from — and where they are today. Despite the risks involved, that's why Silva and Marinovich have continued their conflict coverage.

Once apartheid ended,┬áthe photographers found "Bang Bang" far afield, Marinovich says, but still in the throes of conflict. Yuglosavia, Baghdad, Afghanistan — pretty much any place of unrest. Marinovich himself was once hit by a mortar, although he shows no signs of injury.

That will not be the case with Silva. But photography, the very thing that led to his injury, just might also be what saves him.

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