In an article by Jeffrey Gettleman about the continuing, grueling conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, this photo was used at the heading, a powerful introduction to an informative, if not heartbreaking, report. The situation in the Congo has worsened; the Congolese army has decided to combat the rebels, entrapping civilians in the crossfires. This conflict has taken place in East Congo, right next to the border of Rwanda. Thousands of civilians are trying to escape the conflict but without any security, many are left to their own devices, forced to live outside and face the elements.
By no means is it a groundbreaking photograph – it’s the quintessential shot of the impact of conflict, insecurity, and struggle. But what the photographer has done is focus on a few individuals while the rest of the citizens fade into the background, creating this profound effect that the lines of refugees just does not cease and stretches beyond the horizon. By putting on a sharp focus on just a few individuals, readers are more able to connect to the faces of a few than to the faces of many. The weight of the mattress on a single man’s shoulder is easier to digest than the weight of the entire nation.
In contrast, the chosen human interest story is represented by a lone bronze statue. It’s the statue of Mayor Hilmar G. Moore of Richmond, Texas who died just last Tuesday at the age of 92. The article is a celebration of the beloved mayor; he had been appointed in 1949 and had since been reelected 32 times. A World War II veteran and a hardworking cattle ranger, Mayor Moore was classically American; he was a self-made man with a family heritage embedded in the state of Texas. He had been reelected so many times because the citizens truly believed he got the job done. He lived simply and believed in self-sufficiency as he had once said, “I would never ask a man to do a job that I wouldn’t do myself.”
The photo is appropriately representative of Mayor Moore; it’s uncomplicated and its stance is firm and unwavering, just as the article has portrayed him. Its simplicity is powerful and appealing. Yet, time and time again, it’s the photo of chaos that is shown in the article about the Congo that is much more arresting and attention-grabbing. The Congo photo depicts real people and real emotions while the mayor photo is an inanimate object of someone who has lived comfortably and will be fondly remembered. It’s the Congo photo that made me stop and read the story twice because the plight of the innocent civilians is worrying and their troubles are real. The conflict has not been resolved and the uncertain future of the Congolese citizens has been captured in this photo.
Read full article about the conflict in Congo here.
Read full article about Mayor Hilmar G. Moore here.