A tribute to ten photographers who inspire us.
Not one of the photographers featured on the following pages wanted to be called a hero. We sympathize: The word is immodest and certainly overused these days. Nonetheless, we can't help but consider them heroic, and when you read their stories, we think you'll understand why.
There are many different kinds of heroes in photography -- people committed to causes large and small, public and personal, and hoping to make a difference. In that regard, the ten people featured in this portfolio are merely examples of the deep vein of dedication to do good that has animated photography almost since its invention. Consider, for example, the 19th-century pictures of New York City tenements by Jacob Riis, used by social reformers to improve living conditions for the poor; or the photography of the Farm Security Administration that described so vividly the state of America during the Great Depression; or the vigil kept by W. Eugene Smith over the people living near polluted Minamata Bay; or the iconic images with which Sebastião Salgado showed the effect of powerful economic forces on people without power.
Many of the heroes in this issue follow in that line of work. British photojournalist Hazel Thompson took great risks to document children being held in terrible conditions in Philippine prisons. "They commit some small crime -- shoplifting, for instance -- and end up losing their freedom and youth," she says. Timothy Fadek has spent 13 years covering a series of murders in the Mexican border town of Juárez -- murders largely overlooked by authorities because the victims were women, and prostitutes. Photojournalist Chris Hondros has made nine trips to Iraq in the past four years to cover a war that grows increasingly dangerous by the day. Others, like Yunghi Kim, have spent entire careers seeking out stories that would otherwise remain untold. In doing so, they have put themselves into the kinds of situations that get journalists killed.
Heroes of Photography Gallery
Some photographers are heroes simply because they show us how to overcome obstacles that would seem to be insurmountable. Fine-art photographer John Dugdale has continued to work at the highest level despite progressively losing his eyesight due to an HIV-related illness. Joseph Rodriguez, who rebuilt his life after getting into drugs and being arrested at a young age, is documenting the lives shattered by Hurricane Katrina. Phil Borges has been unshakable in his conviction that his fine-art portraiture can be a vital force for good in the world.
Are they heroes? Maybe a hero is simply a story, because it is in the stories that we find inspiration. To pay tribute to the photographers here, we have turned to people who know just how much they have risked and how much has been achieved by their efforts. Our aim, however, is not merely to honor these photographers for what they have done. The goal is to provide an insight into what photography can offer to all of us.
Photography has never been an end in itself; we are all dedicated to taking good pictures. But sometimes that's not enough. As artists, journalists, and even hobbyists, we also look for a meaning in life beyond the image. The heroes on the following pages show us how to find it.