Tuesday, July 16, 2024


Westport to Afghanistan and Iraq: Tyler Hicks Tells His Story

Up close in Iraq.(CLICK TO ENLARGE) Tyler Hicks/New York Times photo
When he graduated from Westport’s Staples High School in 1988, Tyler Hicks had no idea he would be returning home 16 years later an accomplished photojournalist for The New York Times and with a new book featuring his work.

Hicks, 35, tells his story tonight at the Westport Public Library in a discussion about the book, “Histories and Mirrors: The Path of Conflict through Afghanistan and Iraq” (Umbrage Editions, $29.95). The program begins at 7:30 p.m. in the McManus Room.

Hicks went through the Westport school system the old Hillspoint Elementary School, Long Lots Junior High, and then Staples. “I wasn’t a big student then,” he admits. “I wasn’t very applied and I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.”

He went off to a small California school Menlo College ֖ and while there took a nature photography course “because it was available,” he says. After a five-day trip through California taking pictures, he was hooked. Two years later, he transferred to Boston University.tylerhicksbook150.jpg
New book features photos by Westporter Tyler Hicks. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo
Tyler Hicks: New York Times photojournalist returns to Westport. Contributed photo

“I transferred as a history major but managed to convince the journalism school I really wanted to do photography,” he says. After school, he worked at a small paper in Troy, Ohio, and then a larger paper in Wilmington, N.C., where he had interned while in college.

He spent four years there, but chronicling the daily activities in Wilmington was not as exciting as the photos he saw coming in from overseas from The Associated Press. “It just wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he says.

Eventually, he made his own way abroad, living and shooting as a freelancer in Kosovo where he had gone on vacation while working in North Carolina—and Nairobi, Kenya. After working as a contract photographer for The New York Times, the newspaper took him on full time.

On Sept. 11, 2001, he was in Westport about to go to New Haven for a doctor’s appointment when the hijacked planes crashed into the World Trade Center. Later that day, he managed to get into New York to work the story.hicksexrcute11290401.jpg
Afghanistan: Northern Alliance soldiers drag a Taliban soldier to his feet prior to executing him. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Tyler Hicks/New York Times photo

From then on, it was a series of whirlwind assignments ֖ trips to Afghanistan and then Iraq, in time for the outbreak of war in March 2003.

While many of his photographs are memorable, winning large space in the newspaper and worldwide acclaim, some of his most haunting show a wounded Taliban soldier being dragged to his feet and then shot and killed by Northern Alliance troops. The incident occurred as they made their advance in Afghanistan in November 2001.

After the photos were published in The Times, someone asked President Bush about them at a news conference.

“It was the first time that I realized having a picture published in The New York Times could have such an impact,” Hicks says. “The president of the United States was being asked about my picture.”

Hicks has been out of Iraq for a while “it is becoming so difficult to work there,” he says ֖ and is living in his New York apartment. But he expects he’ll go back in time for elections scheduled in January, after he completes his book tour.

It’s a tour he says he insisted include a stop in his hometown, where his mother, Julie, and sister, Darcy, still live. “I love coming back to Westport,” he says. “I see myself spending more and more time there.”

Click here to view some of Tyler Hicks’s photos.

One thought on “Westport to Afghanistan and Iraq: Tyler Hicks Tells His Story

  1. These photos are amazing – emotional, powerful, thoughtful. I remember Tyler as a student and am so pleased to see what he is doing now. I’m glad to see that he is contributing so incredibly to photojournalism and our understanding of what is going on in America’s most recent wars.

    Good for you! Thanks for these photos.

    Dr. Marla Lowenthal

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