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World Images

When I signed on with Time Magazine in 1982, I made the decision to take advantage of the depth the magazine allows its reporters and photographers to explore when covering stories. I wanted to understand the people, the cultures, and thereby give current stories a context. I wanted to crack the superficial shell of a story. One way to do that, I thought, was to live in the countries I was contracted to cover. And so I did: first Central America, then Brazil, Thailand, and finally eleven years in the Indian subcontinent.

I learned that when you leave the First World, many of the value systems you hold as central to social order are no longer important. Volatile. Spontaneous. Unpredictable. Chaotic. These words describe the countries in which I lived and worked. The photograph at left, for instance, illustrates how some countries deal with human rights, where demonstrations against government policies can become a gauntlet of bamboo sticks and stones. The man in the image may not have been injured, but in New Delhi in the early 1990s, social protest could carry a stiff price.

In many of these countries, history is decided through the barrel of a gun, or through the convergence of chaotic events. My role was to serve as witness and offer to people a view of history unfolding in its varied and rich cultural contexts.

Thimpu, Bhutan — Circa 1990
When I live in a country, I try to imagine how I can visually capture something of the daily habits of the people. In Timpu, like in many places, chewing betel nut is so much a part of society that it is almost emblematic. In this image, the white marks on the building are from the lime that helps release the addictive components of the betel nut.

 

 

The Citadel, South Carolina — 1999
The arches in this dorm building are very similar to the Islamic architecture I’m familiar with. But what struck me when taking this photograph of George W. Bush was the Alice-in-Wonderland quality to the scene, the checkerboard that seemed an appropriate political metaphor, and the sheer size of the squares that minimized the stature of the individual.

 

Taliban — 1997
Late one afternoon, I received permission to photograph Taliban forces outside Kabul.
They were firing on opposition forces who were attacking the capital. It struck me that more than ten years ago, Soviet troops were firing on opposition groups from the same location. It seems, sometimes, that there is no stopping wars in some places of the world.

 

 

Chapel Hill, North Carolina —1999
Southern Village is a planned community outside Chapel Hill that was designed to deal with urban density in a novel or different way. The houses are built close together to encourage people to socialize. What I found interesting with the scene is the true innocence of the child running through the sprinkler in summer — the sense of the freedom of youth, of the suburban lifestyle.

Miami Beach, Florida — Labor Day Weekend, 1999
Ocean Beach is always filled with crowds and one afternoon I came upon a group from Queens, New York, who regularly travel down to Miami. Watching them, it struck me that these people were the product of malls, tattoo parlors, and muscle beaches and how their tackiness fits perfectly with the resort quality of the Miami Beach area.

 

Srinagar, Kashmir — Circa 1989
During the early 1990s, in their battle for independence from India, Kashmiri militants would walk the streets several times a day taking shots at the security forces. Today, the movement has been taken over by non-Kashmiri forces trained in Pakistan or Afghanistan. It’s likely that the man in the photograph is dead or in jail.

 

The White House —1999
Hillary Clinton was interviewed in The White House solarium toward the end of the media’s attention to the Lewinski story. Rarely does Ms. Clinton let her guard down and that day I was struck by her endurance. In this photograph I caught a brief moment when she seemed to pull away from the public persona.

 

 

 

 

 

Rawalpindi, Pakistan —1999
Heroin use was never a problem in Pakistan despite its production in neighboring Afghanistan; now it has one of the highest rates of addiction in the world. Often addicts are victims of their society’s low standards of law and order, of corruption, or of poor economies. I wanted to illustrate that addiction can happen to anyone.