Thoughts On Reporting: Remembering NPR Photojournalist David Gilkey

When somebody passes away, the thoughts of mourning and sadness tend to be the first emotions thought up. This, of course, is ok. Sadness is ok when we miss somebody. When someone passes, they never really leave us. Their memory and their work lives on post-mortem in the ones that cherish them the most.

This most certainly applies to NPR Photojournalist, David Gilkey. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Gilkey, he was tragically killed in Afghanistan this past Sunday while working to display the light within a country shrouded with the darkness of war. Being a photojournalist, Gilkey had an eye for things that are the world’s most precious gifts. Today, I will comment upon his style as well as comment on what a photojournalist can do for the world.

In the link above is a story that NPR published themselves after losing one of their own. It truly is a nice piece. Gilkey explained before his death that photojournalism is “not just reporting. It’s not just taking pictures. It’s, ‘Do those visuals, do the stories, do they change somebody’s mind enough to take action?’So if we’re doing our part, it gets people to do their part. Hopefully.” Gilkey seemed that he wanted people to think for their own and do the right thing. That’s the way he saw his work.

His photos are simply magnificent. Within the article above, we see what NPR calls just “a small selection of David’s remarkable work.” His style is very relevant in each one of the photos we can see of his. There is a character in nearly every single one of the photos we see in the article above. Whether it be a human being or an animal, we are stricken with the wonder of what their deal is. Captions are a great thing in photography. They help push the story forward. But some of the best photos, shouldn’t require a caption.

If one can look at a photograph and truly feel the emotion or the moment that photo was taken place, there’s no need for a caption. The emotions and the thoughts live on within the viewer. The way Gilkey shot, he wanted his characters to not act for the camera, but for the camera to capture them telling their own story. In one of the photos, we see a Syrian refugee in Toledo, Ohio carrying his daughter down the street. I was sent back to a time where my father carried me in his arms when I was young. I looked at this photo not knowing the characters, but knowing the emotion of the scene. Granted, I am no Syrian refugee and those people have probably lived through horrors that I couldn’t imagine in my dizziest daydreams. But, a photo I have no emotional attachment to sent me back to a place in time where I could relate to it in some way. It’s truly remarkable magic.

Another style element Gilkey leaves with us is quite evident in many of the photos you see in the article. The eyes can tell a story more powerful than words when it comes to photography. Gilkey does a wonderful job in capturing the eyes and their radiant storytelling capabilities. In nearly every photo, you can pick out an eye. You can read the eye and sort of feel as if you’re there in that moment. Another magic trick of photography. Making eye contact with a still photograph can take you to a place you’ve never been before. Staring at a photo doesn’t make you crazy; it simply means you’re experiencing the photo the way the photographer wanted you to experience it. It’s just like paintings:


Photographs, like paintings, put us somewhere that we are not. They put us in a moment and make us feel things that we wouldn’t normally feel. The world needs photos. The world needs photojournalism. Without it, we really wouldn’t know what was going on at all. We wouldn’t feel emotion towards peace, war, death, life, etc. It’d just be words on paper.

Thank You David Gilkey. You died doing what you loved to do. You will be remembered through your eye for the art of photojournalism.

In Memoriam:


David Gilkey (1966-2016)


Muhammad Ali (1942-2016)


Gordie Howe (1928-2016)


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