Getty Images award-winning photojournalist John Moore has traveled the world capturing horrific scenes of violence from war zones to egregious human rights violations. For the past decade, Moore has been photographing the migrant crisis, and ended up in Rio Grande, TX last week where he encountered a Honduran refugee breastfeeding her 2-year old child while trying to cross the border.
The pair was met by U.S. Border Patrol and quickly processed – the child’s shoelaces were removed as a part of standard operating procedure, while the mother was placed against a vehicle and frisked by a gloved agent while the child shrieked in fear. Moore made a devastating frame that quickly went viral before the pair were escorted to a van and whisked away to an unknown fate.
According to the Washington Post, Moore had spent a full day near the river trying to capture a photo that conveyed the enormous emotional toll on the immigrants. After 7 hours, he was able to make a picture that will almost certainly symbolize the U.S.’s current policy of forcible separation of parents and their children – whether they were separated or not.
Moore’s image immediately brought to mind this image by the late Chris Hondros.
Like Moore, Hondros spent the better part of his career in harm’s way. In 2005, he was embedded in Tal Afar, Iraq, where he came across 5-year old Samar Hassan, whose parents were killed after U.S. soldiers opened fire on their vehicle – an horror of war and case of mistaken identity. The blood on Hassan’s hands and face are reminiscent of the bright red shirt and shoes in Moore’s image.
Tragedy, whether a natural disaster or one inflicted by man, has an indelible effect on its participants and observers. Photojournalists don’t seek to create a “poster child” from their subjects, but we cannot turn away from images of children in sheer agony. It is a most human response to empathize with pain and feel outrage, which hopefully catalyzes us to action.
Good photojournalism tells a story. Great photojournalism resonates with our emotions – even if its very success is rooted in tragedy.