Taking pictures of pain

Zoriah Miller is a world renowned photojournalist. His images of humanitarian disasters and struggles are inspiring a generation of photographers, despite only emerging into the limelight in late 2005, when a photo he took during his documenting of the 2004 tsunami was published by Newsweek.

He was named photojournalist of the year in 2006, and this year won the PhotoPhilantrophy Activist award. He spoke to The Linc on world issues, education, and the role of the journalist.


A picture from one of Zoriah's collections documenting the vast problem with AIDS in Asia. Photo: Zoriah Miller
His work with aid organisations is what led him to being a prolific photojournalist in some of the world’s most devastated places.
“My background is in disaster management and humanitarian aid. But after working with aid organizations I decided I wanted to try to educate people about disasters and social  issues through photography.

“I wanted to help people, or at the very least increase awareness, and photojournalism seemed to be a good way of going about it,” he said.

Photojournalism, in his eyes, “serves a very important role in society” and “is a public service”. The cliché is that pictures say a thousand words. As a tool for education, Zoriah believes that they are “a part of a much bigger equation in the education of human kind”.

However, he says that photojournalism serves another purpose, and that is of an artistic nature. “It is also important that people realise that it is also an art — I believe people find too much truth in photography. It is impossible to tell the whole story in 1/60th of a second, yet most people still think that  photos don’t lie.”

Being a journalist of any kind is fast becoming one of the most dangerous occupations to have in many countries. “I think this job will continue to get more and more dangerous.

“I believe governments and political groups have learned that photography can have a huge effect on public opinion and often those with something to hide go through great lengths to make sure the world does not see what they are doing.”


This photo is from a set taken at the Gaza strip. Photo: Zoriah Miller
He says education is currently the most pressing issue in the world. “A lack of proper education is the root of pretty much every problem there is today. The developing world needs basic education and the developed world needs much better education.”

“Most problems,” he says, “can be solved with a combination of understanding and critical thinking. The problem is that most people could do a much better job of this if we were given better tools during our formative years and beyond.

“Some of the worlds most educated countries see themselves as needing vast improvement in education, while those countries that struggle often see few problems with their educational systems – this speaks  volumes.”

In light of this, Zoriah feels that the governments and leaders of richer countries ought to contribute more to help countries suffering from poverty and humanitarian disasters.

“I think more needs to be done in the mitigation phase of disaster work. Making sure countries follow safe standards for building and construction as well a having a plan in case disaster does strike,” he says.

“Of course in countries where people can barely afford to eat this will not be a priority unless more developed countries step in to assist. Those with more money and resources always need to help those with less.”

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