DAVID GREENE, Host:
One of the unforgettable images from this crisis in Somalia was a photograph that was splashed across the front page of The New York Times this past week. What you saw is a small boy, almost skeletal, lying curled up on his side in a filthy hospital. His hands were reaching back to his head in unimaginable pain. That picture alone may have done more for awareness of the situation than any plea for help could have.
Veteran photojournalist Tyler Hicks took the photograph. He's back home in Turkey now but still thinking about the scene outside the frame of that picture.
TYLER HICKS: It's really quite a hellish place. The hospital's completely filled with people. The most affected were the children. It's an open-air environment. There's kind of a few windows that are open. And as you walk in, you can just hear children crying. There's room after room filled with people and also spilling out into the hallway where even, you know, a single cot would have two or three children on it. And any space, any open space, where you could put a person, there would be a child there. And it wasn't just that they were skinny, it's that they were so sick. You know, the children were vomiting, their eyes rolling back in their heads. Some of them, like this boy, you couldn't even really tell he was alive until you saw him move. Just skin and bones.
GREENE: Tyler Hicks, it seems like whenever there's a war, your name is showing up on the photos in The Times - Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya. I mean, you've shot some of the most harrowing situations of this young century in many ways. How does what you saw in Somalia compare?
HICKS: I'd say that the condition of the people is one of the worst that I've seen. I've worked in Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, also in the wake of natural disasters, tsunami, and this was the first time I really saw such numbers of people who were clearly starving to death. And the difference was that once they reach Mogadishu, there's no help for them. There's no resource. There's - it's not like they're suddenly, okay, we made it and we're going to be okay now. There's nothing there for them. There's so few resources in Mogadishu, even at the hospital.
And some of the photographs, you can see there are children just with flies all over their faces, and this is a big problem. They don't even have mosquito nets. Families don't have money to buy a mosquito net that only costs a few dollars.
GREENE: Tyler, what emotions are you going through as a photographer in a moment like this? I guess you know that your work can help people in some abstract way, but you can't reach out and help this child right there as you're standing there.
HICKS: Yeah. It's never easy. And, you know, my job there is to take photographs that are going to get recognized, that people are going to react to. So really, while I'm there, I really have to focus on that work and focus on capturing the situation that's going on there. Later when I look at the pictures when I'm back in my hotel room, or looking on my laptop and sending these in, I actually react more to those scenes than when I'm actually shooting them. Of course, it affects me. I think about these people all the time. And I think that if you didn't, there'd be something wrong with you or you shouldn't be the one to do this type of work. You have to really want to be there in order to tell their story.
GREENE: Your name was in the news back in March as part of a New York Times team that was held captive in Libya, and here you are, back in another dangerous part of the world, at work again. What compelled you to get back so quickly?
HICKS: It's really people process things like that differently. We were held for a week, and (unintelligible) part of that was pretty brutal. We came out of it at the other end. And for me, that's really, you know, I'm able to walk away from that with a bad memory, and that doesn't mean that it's time to stop following what I believe in.
GREENE: Salon.com ran an article about your work, and they asked the question, can a photograph still change the world? What's the answer?
HICKS: I don't know about change the world. I think it can change policy. I think a photograph can change the way people think. You know, I've seen this happen over the years, you know, and it's not that often in one's own career that you have these kind of photographs that really make that impact. But I do think that the power of photography of the single image even in today's digital age where so many things have moving pictures and video and with all the multimedia, you can still see that, you know, the reaction that a single still image can have. And that's because it has a way of searing itself into your mind. It's something that you can study. I think that that is the best way to communicate.
GREENE: We've been speaking to Tyler Hicks. He's a photojournalist with The New York Times. Tyler, be safe and thanks so much for joining us.
HICKS: Thank you very much.
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