As fate would have it, we were in production on this issue of PhotoMedia — the one time every two years that we focus on the subject of travel photography — when, on Dec. 26, 2004, a natural disaster of immense proportions occurred, which would dominate the news for weeks to come. The early reports of the South Asian tsunami could only give a hint of the magnitude of the resulting destruction, death and injuries.
At press time, the total deaths were approaching 300,000 and still counting. In my entire life, I can’t remember another naturally occurring event that even comes close to the scale of this catastrophe in terms of immediacy, devastation to life and infrastructure, and number of countries involved. The rapid response by world governments, businesses and individuals to provide aid has been truly encouraging.
This event had a profound impact on me as I reflected on the 13 months in 1982 and 1983 during which I traveled through virtually all of the countries that were affected by December’s giant waves. Many of the communities I visited have now been partially or totally destroyed, and I realize that it could just as easily have been me or any other traveler caught by surprise while taking in the scenery of an exotic destination. One thing is sure: Never again will anyone underestimate the power of the ocean.
The tsunami reminded me what a wondrous, yet fragile, world we live in, and how precious life is. It also gave me a new appreciation for how photographs serve to document for generations to come the places, cultures and lifestyles that can unpredictably disappear in an instant.
As a publisher, I knew that I had a journalistic responsibility to our readers to cover this important story, despite our fast-approaching deadline.
In the weeks prior to going to press, I reviewed more than 2,500 photos of destruction, death, survival and rebuilding to make the final selection that appears in this issue. It was a heartbreaking process. Although several of the photos are quite graphic, we have faith that our readers will appreciate the newsworthiness of these images and their context in the coverage.
I give thanks to my editor, Randy Woods, for his research and dedication to writing an absorbing story to do the pictorial justice. Also, I extend my sincerest thanks to J.P. Pappis and the staff of Polaris Images for their cooperation in presenting this story, as well as to Jon Warren from World Vision for his participation.
On a more upbeat note, our cover story presents the travel photography of Blaine Harrington, named by the American Society of Travel Writers as the 2005 Travel Photographer of the Year. That title alone should indicate his accomplishments and the reasons behind our eagerness to feature him and his work.
Further off the beaten track is our coverage of Helge Pedersen, who has spent the last 20 years tallying more than a million miles exploring and photographing the far corners of the world, all by motorcycle. His story will capture your imagination and redefine the word adventure for you.
To round out the issue, Bob and Gloria Willis share their strategies for surviving in the travel photography business after Sept. 11, 2001, and the resulting dip in demand for images of foreign destinations. Nature photographer Roddy Scheer provides a guided photo tour of Mount St. Helens, 25 years after the eruption that made it famous, and reports on news of its more recent rumblings. Also, Richard McEnery imparts some food for thought for photographers who are considering photo workshops.
As always, please let our advertisers know that you noticed their ads in PhotoMedia. Their support is largely responsible for our being able to bring you in-depth coverage of the world of photography for free. In this struggling economy, our advertisers need to know, more than ever, that their advertising dollars are being well spent.
We hope that this issue will remind you of the interconnectedness of humankind. We welcome your opinions on our coverage and encourage you to share PhotoMedia with others who love photography.
Gary Halpern, Publisher