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Nieman’s 80th Anniversary Reunion Weekend

Transcript: Eli Reed

Eli Reed:  Good evening.

I was in Tripoli in Northern Lebanon in 1983 covering a major battle for Time Magazine between the PLO and the Palestinian opponents sponsored by Syria.

I arrived in the early morning hours in the refugee camps of Beddawi after particularly intensive round of fighting. I walked through the camps and made photographs of the aftermath.

At one point I noticed an elderly man standing on some ruins. I started photographing as I walked towards him. He watched my approach until I got within three feet of him, and then he put his hand in front of my lens to stop me. I was causing him even more pain, which was the last thing that I wanted even as I was doing my job as a journalist.

Then, he surprised me by taking my hand in his, pulling me along with him as he walked towards the stairway and up the stairs. There was the bed he slept in along with a gaping hole from a rocket that landed against the wall next to his bed. He had spent the night in a cellar beneath the building during the battle.

The man looked at me as if asking, “What are you waiting for? This is my life. Take your pictures, do your job.” My personal journey in my fifty-year career has been the meditation on what it means to be a human being.

My journalistic journey has been to uncover the truth about wars, rebellions, race, and other forms of human struggle, and send it out into the world. That is my job. That is our job.

Here now is a selection of my work through many years in journalism.