Culture Miss N

João Silva – Snapshot of a Survivor

This picture, taken by  João Silva, published on the front page of the New York Times a few days ago, brought joy to those who saw it. Together with a twitpic of the photographer on his prosthetic legs, in the headquarters of the newspaper he works for, smiling, it seemed to signal that João, the same photographer, who almost a year ago was severely injured in Afghanistan, was back.

The same photographer who was part of the so-called Bang Bang Club, a band of photographic brothers who captured scenes in post-Apartheid South Africa during the 90s. His seminal book, a set-work in my university days, written together with fellow photographer and close friend Greg Marinovich, is the basis for the movie of the same name, which debuted at the TriBeCa Film Festival in April. Although the movie, starring Ryan Phillipe and Taylor Kitsch, largely romanticizes the story, it gives an idea of the important work he and his colleagues did back then. João has reported from many other conflict zones too and continued to take those necessary pics from places like Georgia and Iraq.

So the twitpic was a joy to those who beheld it – friends, family members, strangers who know only his work – because, as Silva himself puts it, people just wanted to see him “upright, standing, alive.” Because, as he adds, for a while there were doubts he would make it. And so the pics led to declarations that he was back in action. I, too, was one of those who eagerly spread the word.

But that’s not necessarily the case.

João made time for me to interview him during his brief, but busy New York trip while he was meeting up with friends and colleagues. He told me the sentiment that he’s back is great, but he’s still got a long way to go.

João goes back into hospital today, for another surgery. It’s hoped this will be the last one on his path to recovery. After he’s recuperated, he aims to take part in the New York Marathon in November.

Here he talks about how he is keeping his spirit strong, training for the marathon and why he wants to go back to Afghanistan.

Joao Silva

While praying for his safe and speedy recovery, have a look at some of the reasons that make him the award-winning “bull in a china shop” that he is, here and here.


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