Homepage Photo Captions
1. Dong Ha, April 1972.
The North Vietnamese Army had just surged across the Demilitarized Zone, launching the NVA’s 1972 Easter Offensive, and was temporarily halted by South Vietnamese troops at a river bisecting the town of Dong Ha. Along with Nick Proffitt, Newsweek’s garrulous bureau chief, and David Elliott, the bravest scholar I ever knew, I had walked into Dong Ha. In the photograph, the river is to my right, just down the street; I could hear the fighting but not see it. This was my first day anywhere close to combat, and I felt more fearful than at any time in the next two years of covering the Indochina war. Photo by David Elliott. (Described in The Mark.)
2. Tiger Cage Prisoners, March 1973
An anonymous (but not entirely unexpected) phone caller instructed me to go a certain hospital room in the city of Cholon, neighboring Saigon, and there I found 13 prisoners recently released from the South Vietnamese government’s notorious “tiger cages,” all bearing atrophied legs and unable to walk after many years in shackles. These men were the most fearless men I’ve ever met, who seemed to have passed through death and come out the other side. (Described in The Mark.)
3. Narmada River bridge, 2001.
The Narmada River is India’s fifth-longest river, and to many people, its most holy one. In 2001, it was being throttled by the Sardar Sarovar Dam, at its completion the third-largest dam in the world. The dam’s reservoir eventually inundated the bridge in the photograph, and forced the desultory resettlement of two or three hundred thousand mostly indigenous people. Photo by Robert Dawson. (Described in Deep Water.)
4. Kariba Dam, 2002.
At its completion in the mid-1950s, the World Bank-financed Kariba Dam, on the Zambezi River on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, was the largest dam in Africa. When full, it holds back more water than any other dam in the world, but these days it is plagued by drought, which has cut into its hydroelectricity production. The dam shattered the society of the Gwembe Tonga people, who lived along the river for countless generations. Described in Deep Water.
5. Medha Patkar, Badwani, India, 2001.
Medha Patkar is considered the world’s leading anti-dam activist. Through hunger strikes of up to 27 days and attempts to drown herself in rising reservoir waters, she galvanized protests that drove the World Bank out of the project, the first time the Bank was forced to withdraw from one of its projects. The Indian government built the dam anyway, but Patkar’s protests heartened anti-dam activists around the world. Photo by Robert Dawson. (Described in Deep Water.)
6. Lake Thorthormi, Bhutan, 2009.
Beginning in 2009, the Bhutanese government carried out an audacious four-year project to reduce the threat of cataclysmic flooding caused by Himalayan glaciers that were melting as a result of climate change. As the Thorthormi glacier retreated up 24,000-foot-high Table Mountain, it left behind an unstable lake, which, if it gave way, would inundate villagers below. Each summer, the project sent hundreds of workers hiking up treacherous Himalayan trails to safely release water from the lake, using chiefly hand tools. Three workers died from altitude sickness; two lost all their toes to frostbite. (Described in A Deluge of Consequences