Tue 30 Aug 2011
On Feb. 11 while a crowd of 100,000 people in Cairo’s Tahrir Square were celebrating the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, a group of men grabbed CBS correspondent Lara Logan and sexually attacked her. The men stripped her, stretched her vagina and rectum with their fingers, tried to pull off parts of her scalp, and attempted to tear her limb from limb.
Logan (left), who was ultimately saved by a group of Egyptian women, had felt certain she was going to die. During a 60 Minutes interview on April 30, she described the ordeal and how the thought of her two small children kept her determined to live.
Some snide commentators, however, used the brutal incident as an occasion to criticize CBS for sending an attractive blonde into a crowd celebrating a revolution’s success. For these critics, it was also an excuse to slam Islam. Ignored by the critics were Logan’s being an experienced war correspondent and the fact that atrocities against women occur in almost every culture. Two years ago, for example, in the primarily Christian community of Richmond, at least five assailants raped and severely beat a 15-year-old high school girl.
In 1995, my former wife Cathy published a book titled Margaret Fuller’s New York Journalism. It concerns a prominent editor and reporter who in the 1840s became the first female foreign correspondent for Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune.
As such Fuller (right) covered Giuseppe Mazzini’s revolution for the establishment of a Roman Republic. In 1850, however, she was forced to flee Italy after France intervened in the struggle.
She, her husband, and child set sail for New York City on a freighter. After two months at sea, they were within 100 yards of New York’s Fire Island when their ship ran aground and all three drowned.
One of the best-known women photojournalists of our time was Lee Miller (1907-77), who covered World War II for Vogue magazine.
Miller photographed the London Blitz, concentration camp victims, children dying in a Vienna hospital, the first use of napalm, and the execution of the prime minister of Hungary. Accredited to the Army as war correspondent for Condé Nast Publications, she traveled with Allied troops across Europe during its liberation. Miller was never injured in the fighting, but the horrors she documented caused her to suffer severe episodes of clinical depression, along with post-traumatic stress syndrome, when the war ended.
Besides being a photojournalist, Miller had been a model and a fashion photographer. When she took a bath in Hitler’s bathtub after the fuhrer’s death, David E. Scherman, a photographer for Life magazine, shot what is probably the best remembered picture of her.
Thirty years ago, which was around the time I was reporting on the insurrections in El Salvador and Guatemala for the old San Francisco Examiner, photojournalist Susan Meiselas’ pictures of the nearby Nicaraguan revolution were the envy of the rest of us. The Magnum photographer’s shots of Anastacio Samoza’s soldiers and the Sandinistas, who defeated them, provided Americans with many of the images we had of the conflict. This is the cover photo for Meiselas’ book Nicaragua, which is among the best collections of war photos I’ve seen. Although the book was originally published in 1981, new and used copies can still be found.
At the moment, the woman photojournalist who is dazzling the world is Amy Weston of the London-based WENN photo agency. Her photos of a woman leaping from a burning building during the London riots have been called the “iconic” images of the Aug. 6-to-10 violence.
The woman, Monika Konczyk, 32, was trapped above the first floor after rioters set fire to a furniture store. Hearing people on the street yelling, Weston stopped her car and found this desperate scene. Konczyk had climbed out a window onto an awning but was too frightened to jump into the waiting arms of police and firefighters below. Finally, she did and immediately ran away, traumatized but physically uninjured.
After snapping her shots, Weston became alarmed by a group of young thugs who showed up. She tucked her camera under her sweater to hide it and sprinted to her car, bringing back photos that virtually every daily newspaper in Great Britain ran on its front page. Almost immediately the pictures could seen in print or online around the world.
My admiration for the present crop of female journalists is hardly unique. “Women led the way in the coverage of the rebel advance into the Libyan capital of Tripoli,” Jack Mirkinson wrote in the Huffington Post two weeks ago.
Among them have been Sara Sidner of CNN, Lourdes Garcia-Navarro and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson of National Public Radio, and Missy Ryan of Reuters.
In recent weeks I’ve watched Khodr in helmet and flak jacket advancing across Libya with the rebels, taking cover when bullets came her way and remaining calm and articulate through it all.
You can see Khodr in action by clicking here.