I like people who notice things. As a lifelong reporter, I prefer to think, of course, that I possess a keen eye for details. But then some artist or actor will show off his or her powers of observation, and I will suddenly feel as perceptive as a walleyed lungfish.
A good photographer, especially, has the ability to make the rest of us feel blind. Whether by craftiness, clairvoyance or osmosis, they can just stand on a quiet street corner and see an exploding panorama of incidents where you or I might see nothing but a rusty stop sign.
Then there are the photographers who, like performance artists, are driven to deposit themselves in the center of hellacious situations. On page 66 of this issue you will find a story, “Shooting for the Truth,” that concerns the dramatic lives of three photographers who left Westport in pursuit of witnessing things that most of us simply couldn’t stand to see. By all means, please examine Tyler Hicks’s photograph of a Taliban soldier facing imminent execution and wonder how it affected the inner life of Mr. Hicks.
Lynsey Addario (who photographed Erica Jong for this magazine in 1998) and her Staples High classmate Spencer Platt are similarly driven to now put their eyes to the world’s darkest corners. When you open up the New York Times in the morning and see a gripping story from strifetorn lands, check the tiny photographer’s credit. It might well be a shot taken by one of these three.
To write about them, we put writer Tim Dumas on the case. He’s a perceptive soul.
I was talking about him the other day with our editorial director Donna Moffly, who’s been working with Tim since she brought him to Greenwich Magazine in 1991, about Tim’s subatomic vision. “He can walk into a room,” she marveled, “and meet two total strangers, and in just a few minutes totally understand their body language and everything about their relationship.”
Able to write about almost any subject, Dumas is a Renaissance man who is the son of a Renaissance man. His father, Gerald Dumas, is one of those deadly wits from the cartoon world (he’s written for Beetle Bailey for almost fifty years) as well as the poet who wrote the epic narrative, An Afternoon in Waterloo Park. You can imagine what the Dumas household was like.
When Tim was twelve, he came upon Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. “It was the first time I realized that a piece of literature could change the way you think in ordinary life,” he remembers.
So what did Tim do? He tracked Wilder down at his house in Martha’s Vineyard and called him up. At age twelve! For his part, Wilder was glad to get a call from a reader so young.
Like Wilder, the three photographers have produced work that just might change the way you think. Please read Tim’s story and you’ll see. Oh, you will really see it.