On Jan. 27, 1981, 52 Americans and their families arrive at the White House for a ceremony hosted by President Ronald Reagan. The Americans were released January 20 after being held hostage 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Their release came during President Reagan’s inauguration ceremony – former President Jimmy Carter had hoped it would happen while he was still in office – explaining the still- standing grandstand and media center. More than 200,000 people lined the procession route that day. I took the photo from the rooftop at 1730 Pennsylvania Ave., three buildings from the White House. Such a photo opportunity would be impossible today, as would the gathering of a crowd this size so close to the White House.
Saudi Arabia 1982
Palestinian Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat, prior to speaking at a rally in Jeddah in fall 1982. Arafat had been on the run for several months, after Israel destroyed PLO headquarters in Lebanon in retaliation for PLO raids into Israel from south Lebanon. Several hundred people attended the event, including exiled former Ugandan President Idi Amin. I was on assignment for The Washington Post and was the only reporter present. Sitting to Arafat’s right is Khalil al-Wazir, who directed the PLO’s military operations. The two rarely were seen in public together for security reasons. Six years later, Wazir, known as Abu Jihad, was assassinated by Israeli commandos in Tunisia.
Impatient citizens attempt to circumvent the line in front of city hall and take their grievances directly to the mayor of Djibouti City through his office window. This former French colony is Africa’s smallest mainland country with a population of around 900,000. It features a harsh, arid landscape of desert, mountains and few trees. Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is near shipping lanes with access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. As a result, numerous countries have a military presence here, including the U.S. and the French Foreign Legion. I mention the latter because while waiting in the capital to hitch a truck ride to neighboring Somalia I witnessed an all-night party binge at nearby bars by Legion soldiers that included occasional celebratory gunfire. I missed experiencing Dodge City and Tombstone in their heyday, so a Saturday night in Djibouti City, Djibouti will have to suffice.
South Korea 1984
As I toured a U.S. Army outpost on the South Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, I stumbled upon a ceremony involving the re-enlistment of an American soldier. In the background, on the North Korean side of the DMZ, as it’s been known since its establishment in 1953 following the end of the Korean War, I could see the town of Kijong-dong. But, in fact, Kijong-dong is a fabricated place of concrete shells with a population of zero. Locals say the purpose of the illusionary town is two-fold: Lure South Korean defectors and portray a sense of prosperity in a country that most experts believe is one of the world’s poorest.
A preacher prepares a young woman for a Christian baptism in a rural Calhoun County, Ala. stream while members of the church choir add to the intensity of the ritual. I had only been working at The Anniston Star a few days when the paper’s ace photographer Ken Elkins asked me to join him on an assignment on a Sunday morning in June. “River baptism,” he said, something I had never seen as I was new to the South. Over the next five years Ken and I occasionally would wander along the backroads of Calhoun County and beyond seeking interesting characters. They were plentiful. Ken’s skill as a photographer was matched by his instinct for a great story. Comically, he sometimes served as my interpreter as rural southern slang was a new language to this Midwesterner. Although I always was the reporter and he the shooter, on this day I happened to have my camera as well. So, I had a baptism of sorts myself as I waded into the stream to take this picture.
Palestinian women in Israel protest against American-Israeli rabbi Meir David Kahane, who had demanded the previous day that all Palestinians living there abandon their homes and leave the country. Kahane, a militant nationalist whose extreme views attracted a small but fiercely loyal following, was arrested dozens of times after immigrating from New York to Israel in 1971. In 1984, he was elected to the Knesset, which boycotted his arrival. He served one term. Part of his platform was expelling all Arabs out of Israel. He feared that eventually the country’s Arab population would surpass that of Israeli Jews. Kahane, who was assassinated by an Egyptian Arab in New York in 1990, might end up being right. In 1979, when this photo was taken, Palestinian-Israelis made up 16 percent of Israel’s population. Today, 42 years later, the figure is at 26 percent.
Sitting in a taxi as we made our way through the streets of Yangon, the largest city and former capital, I saw this funeral procession. "Stop!" I told the driver and out the door I went. As Theravada Buddhists, practiced by about 80 percent of the population, the belief in reincarnation begins the moment of death. This explains the jovial mood of the group.
I was on a 5-day summer hike in the foothills of the Himalayas, traversing paths through small villages, pastures and desolate boulder fields. At times I reached 9,000-plus feet, adding to the challenge. I camped in open fields, where I could most often find smooth, level ground. One morning I woke to the sound of a cow bell and looked out my open tent window into a thick high-valley fog. Peering at me were a pair of youths tending to their herd. The boy in front is holding a type of umbrella crafted from bamboo that covers his body and any crops he might be carrying on his back. I did not have to move as my camera was nearby.
The 15-year civil war was finally ending. But families still suffered from the loss of loved ones, no work and the stress from so many years of civil strife. Jima Salami of Qousayya, a village in central Lebanon on the Syrian border, had to deal with different but equally daunting issues. Her father was imprisoned leaving her mother and three siblings almost destitute. They lived in a home constructed of concrete blocks about the size of a two-car garage. Each day was a struggle with a goal of surviving and making it to the next. Yet today, 31 years later, many Lebanese – including Jima, a mother of two – will tell you they are worse off than during the war as the country is on the brink of economic ruin.