Sometimes, a single image says more than thousands of words. That was the case with the photo of a drowned Syrian toddler captured Sept. 2 by Turkish photojournalist Nilüfer Demir. Although she and her colleagues have been covering the illegal crossing crisis for 15 years, she knew immediately that this one shot, of a tiny body washed up on a beach, had the potential to eclipse all the others.
“Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi was lying lifeless face down in the surf, in his red T-shirt and dark blue shorts folded to his waist,” she said later. “The only thing I could do was to make his outcry heard.”
That outcry jolted the world into full awareness that something needed to change.
A less-talked-about but similarly moving photo essay in The New York Times Magazine recently took viewers along on migrants’ journey. “Desperate Crossing” is a multimedia exploration of a boat traveling from Libya toward Sicily, weighed down by more than 700 Eritrean migrants. It included this surprising revelation about the rescue boat that saved them from drowning:
“It was almost certainly the smugglers themselves who placed the distress call about the overladen fishing boats, and they have increasingly taken to telling their victims that, rather than Italy, it is a rescue ship that they will reach in a short time.”
Today, Reveal pays homage to four photographers who have been capturing the plight of the displaced for years – all of them finalists for this year’s Catchlight award. Their work documenting the lives of migrants from Tajikistan to sub-Saharan Africa, Guatemala to Turkey vividly depicts the human toll of displacement.