NY Times contrata o fotógrafo João Silva
A Special Visit for Joao Silva’s Recovery
It is not a fraternity to which anyone would seek admission. In the last year and a half, two international photojournalists covering Afghanistan for American news organizations have sustained terrible injuries to their lower limbs from explosive devices.
Who better to counsel one than the other?
That happened Sunday, when Emilio Morenatti of The Associated Press, who lost his left foot and part of his left leg in August 2009, visited Joao Silva, a contract photographer for The New York Times, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where Mr. Silva is recovering. He lost both of his legs on Oct. 23 while embedded on a patrol in Kandahar Province.
What words of wisdom Mr. Morenatti imparted may have been almost less important than his simple presence at Mr. Silva’s bedside, having just completed an arduous month’s work in Haiti. “I was walking up and down mountains and crossing rivers with my prosthesis,” Mr. Morenatti said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.
As for his own future, Mr. Morenatti said: “What is the energy we have, the gasoline? For me, it’s the job. My challenge is to continue the job I was doing.” We spoke hours after he’d returned home to Spain. What he needed more than anything was a good night’s sleep. But when I asked him what the next assignment would be, he said, “I have a lot of stories in my mind, but what I really want is to be ready for the next hard news.”
By NICHOLAS KRISTOF
There are plenty of reasons I’m proud to work at the Times — the brilliant reporting, the numerous prizes — and also reasons why I’m occasionally embarrassed. But I’ve never been prouder of this newspaper than over something that doesn’t have to do with its coverage or mission, but with a hiring decision.
In October, one of our best war photographers, Joao Silva, was badly injured by a landmine in Afghanistan. He was on a patrol near Kandahar when he stepped on a mine, and he continued shooting afterward as long as he was strong enough to hold his camera. The military treated him wonderfully, evacuating him by helicopter and providing first-rate medical care — but Joao still had to have both lower legs amputated.
Joao was not actually a member of the Times staff, but a contract employee — a common arrangement for photographers in war zones. Still, he was a part of the Times family, and he had risked his life getting photos to our readers. So, I recently learned, after the amputation the Times committed to hire him as a full-time staff member.
Frankly, news organizations don’t always treat their people with the professionalism they deserve, and that is especially true of photographers and freelancers. Freelance photographers may have it worst of all. One could easily imagine a company saying that a photographer who lost his legs was now on his own. I once worked with an American television correspondent who was badly beaten up in Asia and left unable to work — and his network pushed him out of a job.
So to see a news organization agree to hire a photographer the moment he is so injured that his future work is in jeopardy…well, to me that’s just the classiest thing a company can do. It’s the kind of thing that builds loyalty among the rest of us. And it was classiest of all that there was no announcement of it; I found out only by chatting with someone in an elevator.
In Joao’s case, here’s hoping that he recovers fully and graces this newspaper with his superlative photography for many decades to come.