Sergi Camara

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.”

A Turkish police officer carries the body of a young Syrian refugee who drowned off the coast of Turkey’s Bodrum Peninsula. Credit: Nilüfer Demir

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.

In Central America, the legacy of decades of upheaval can be told in human terms: drug and gang violence, grinding poverty and rampant domestic abuse. As many as half a million people choose what must as first seem an easy way out: hop a freight train headed north. Here, one Guatemalan woman fleeing an abusive husband waits to board in the railhead town of Arriaga, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas. Her worry is palpable and plausible. Racism against Central Americans is common in Mexico. Other threats range from police beatings to thieves lurking along travel routes looking to snag easy prey. Credit: Michelle Frankfurter

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Amy Pyle is editor in chief at Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, guiding a team of editors, reporters and producers who produce unique in-depth national stories for the web, radio and video. Her primary goals are exposing wrongdoing and holding those responsible accountable, and increasing diversity in the ranks of investigative reporters. In the past year, CIR has established a fellowship program for aspiring investigative journalists of color and another for women filmmakers. Amy has worked at CIR since 2012, previously serving as a senior editor and managing editor. Rehab Racket, a collaboration with CNN that she managed on fraud in government-funded drug and alcohol rehabilitation, won the top broadcast award from Investigative Reporters and Editors. The Reveal radio version of an investigation she oversaw on an epidemic of opiate prescriptions at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs won a George Foster Peabody Award. Previously, as assistant managing editor for investigations at The Sacramento Bee, she managed “Chief's Disease,” a story about pension spiking at the California Highway Patrol, which won George Polk Award. Amy worked as a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times for more than a decade where, as assistant city editor, she directed coverage from the parking lot of the Times’ quake-damaged San Fernando Valley office in the early morning hours after the 1994 Northridge earthquake. That work earned the 1995 Pulitzer Prize for spot news reporting. Amy has a bachelor’s degree in French from Mills College and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University.