Seeing what matters most

Standing amid the rubble of what was once a thriving neighborhood, I try to make sense of what has happened in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Articles of everyday life litter the ground - photographs, clothes, TVs, dishes. The silence is eerie. A few residents have come back, their gazes blank with disbelief, their faces etched with sorrow. I approach them with care and sensitivity. I listen before I begin to shoot pictures as survivors tell their stories, stories that emerge in a cathartic tumble of words. I want them to know I am there to help others understand how they are coping; I'm not trying to exploit their misfortune. I make pictures as the Acehnese pick through the ruins, hoping my images will convey the dignity and strength these people express. I return home days later and look around at all the stuff I have accumulated. Then I hug my wife, reminded again of what is most important.

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