Not Again: Photographer David Gilkey, RIP
By Michael Shaw
If you follow photojournalism, especially the well being of conflict photographers, you know the community lost another important and cherished member this weekend. David Gilkey, who has been covering Afghanistan for NPR, was killed there, along with his translator/photographer colleague Zabihullah Tamanna, after the Afghan army unit they were traveling with was attacked. (Two years ago, the black hole that is known as the Afghan War also claimed the life of another outstanding photographer, the AP’s Anja Niedringhaus. Our remembrance is here.)
So, what’s the explanation for the photos above, the first by Gilkey and the second by Tim Hetherington? They are from a short post I wrote over four years ago. The title read: “Photo Prize Update: Afghan War As Groundhog Day Trauma Loop.” I’m reproducing the two paragraphs that accompanied the photos because, true to the title, the words actually could have been written yesterday. And how fateful that Gilkey joins Hetherington as one more critical loss for visual journalism in America’s post-9/11 military imbroglios.
David and Zabihullah, R.I.P.
On February 26, 2012, I wrote:
What’s immediately striking about David Gilkey’s photo, named first place in the Portrait/Personality category of the White House News Photographer’s 2012 photos awards, is its similarity to Tim Hetherington’s World Press winning photo back in 2007.
Taken together, the status of the U.S. mission over this almost four year photographic span could be termed ” grippingly static.” Rather than offering any improvement, the message on its face is that the Afghan campaign continues to suck the life force out of America and its troops. To the extent notable photos can’t help but illustrate what’s in the headlines, Gilkey’s photo is that much more powerful given the fire and firestorm currently raging in Kabul against the shaky U.S. presence.
Originally published at www.readingthepictures.org on June 5, 2016.