João Silva

I was deeply saddened today to learn that João Silva was severely injured in late October, when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan. Silva is one of the world’s great war photographers. I’ve been struck by the beauty and power of his images for a long time now, and I had become accustomed to seeing a particularly arresting picture in the Times, looking at the credit and seeing that, sure enough, it was his.

He was stuck down in the same anonymous and brutal way as another great photographer, Robert Capa. Silva was luckier — he survived — and is still recovering from severe injuries at Walter Reed. But both his legs had to be amputated.

I suspect that whether you know their names or not, you know the work of both men. Capa is best known for his photographs of the Spanish Civil War, World War II, and in particular, the Normandy invasion. He summed up his approach to photography this way: “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

War photographers take great risks for their work, and they don’t get rich doing it. Silva was a contract worker for the Times. But within days of his injury, the paper hired him full time. Whatever life he faces — with a wife and two kids — he will at least have some financial security.

You can make a donation to help with his recovery or buy prints at this site. There’s a good sample of his work on the Times’ Lens blog here and here. You can learn more about the episode in this article, this appreciation by Michael Kamber, or on Nick Kristof’s blog. For more about Capa, see the International Center of Photography.

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