Thursday, June 14, 2007
Tyler Hicks - Into The Combat Zone
While New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks takes pictures of some of the most hellish events on the planet, he manages to capture moments that reaffirm life in the midst of violence and death
Ground Zero. Kabul. Baghdad. Banda Aceh. In locations such as these, Tyler Hicks thrives as a photographer. He's working at the forefront of the digital-imaging revolution, quickly adapting the latest digital cameras, storage solutions and networking technologies to his needs—then pushing them beyond their limits. As a New York Times photographer, Hicks has traveled alongside the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and worked as an embedded press photographer with U.S. soldiers in Iraq, documenting with digital precision the new conflicts of the 21st century.
Hicks' exposure to digital imaging occurred within a month of the tragic events of 9/11. Although he was out of town that morning, by the evening of the 12th, Hicks was at Ground Zero and recording what he could on film. These would be some of the last film photographs that he'd make for some time.
“When I finally made it down to Ground Zero, it was very hard to photograph since the area was closed off, with all the security,” he says. “Fires were still burning, workmen were everywhere—it was just crazy.”
Afghanistan & The First Digital Shoot
Hicks soon realized that the country's reaction to the events of September 11th and the new war on terrorism soon would lead to battle in Afghanistan. “I knew I had to get there since I wasn't here in New York on 9/11,” he recalls.
Hicks recently had become a freelance photographer for The New York Times that fall, and his journey to Afghanistan would be his first shooting digital. “I had never taken any digital pictures prior to my being in Afghanistan in the fall of 2001,” he says.
“I had no formal training with the camera and had never learned anything about it,” recounts Hicks of his first digital camera, a Nikon D1h with a 17-35mm lens. “I simply read the manual during my flight and that was it. When I got there, I just started shooting.”
Hicks explains that a lot of photographers in Afghanistan were shooting digital for the first time. “My laptop was pretty basic back then. I had no external hard drive, and within three days, my internal hard drive was full. I didn't know then how to prepare or what I was supposed to bring in order to shoot and produce digital images in the field.”
Within a few weeks of working in the desert and mountains of Afghanistan, his keyboard stopped working. Says Hicks, “I had to use Key Caps and click with my mouse on the individual characters so that I could type my captions. It was a crazy way to work.”