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Photographers Recount Covering Israel-Hezbollah Conflict

August 18, 2006 at 6:45 PM EDT

MARGARET WARNER: Finally tonight, images from the war in Lebanon and Israel. Yesterday, we asked two photographers from the New York Times to show us some of their work and talk about their own experiences covering this conflict.

Tyler Hicks was still in Lebanon. Rina Castelnuovo, a contract photographer for the Times, spoke to us by phone from northern Israel.

TYLER HICKS, Photographer: My name is Tyler Hicks. I’m a staff photographer with the New York Times. I’ve been in Tyre, Lebanon, for the past month, covering the conflict between Hezbollah fighters and the Israeli military.

It wasn’t until this week that the cease-fire took place and we were actually able to get out and start seeing some of the villages where the heavier fighting had been going on.

There was a town in southern Lebanon where I photographed a Hezbollah funeral. I followed one small convoy into a small village where there were suddenly hundreds and hundreds of people in the streets who welcomed this casket, which was draped in the Hezbollah flag and carried in a procession through the streets and then to a family home, where this was the first time we’d really seen the really strong emotion of the people and really support of Hezbollah in some of these villages.

RINA CASTELNUOVO, Photographer: My name is Rina Castelnuovo, and I’m a photographer for the New York Times. And I’ve been covering the border town of Kiryat Shmona in northern Israel. It was hit by a rain of rockets for the past month, and I’ve been covering the civilian front and the military front.

The cease-fire, which took effect at┬á7 in the morning, such a calm came on the city that it was hard to get used to it after a whole month of continuous bombardment. There were rockets falling; there were artillery shells going off. And then, the next day, the cease-fire is announced, and it was quiet. And it took us a moment to understand that this is really happening and war is over, at least that’s what it seems to be.

Defining moments

TYLER HICKS: If there's one photograph that I think about that really had an impact on me and spoke to me a lot about the conflict here, was taken earlier in the conflict when the bombardment was still going on, I was at a hospital, and there was a woman who had been injured by Israeli aircraft.

She'd been seriously injured and had lost her mother and other family members in this incident. A nurse came in and started talking to her brother. And as their conversation continued, the woman just suddenly emotionally broke down. I think, in that very moment, everything became clear to her, the shellshock lifted, and to me spoke very clearly about how a lot of people have experienced this conflict.

RINA CASTELNUOVO: One photo which was very important to me was taken in Nazareth. A little boy went out -- they weren't aware that there was a rocket barrage being fired. They didn't have shelters, and there were no air sirens. And the boy went out with his two brothers to play outside. The two brothers died in that rocket attack.

And the boy who survived, the day we came to his home, we found him sleeping in this double bed he was sharing with the two brothers. And he fell asleep crying; he cried himself to sleep.

Capturing a piece of history

TYLER HICKS: In this conflict, we didn't see any fighting in the streets. The Israeli military didn't come up to where we were, and we weren't able to go to where they were. It was just too difficult to travel on the roads. And so the danger is not something that you can anticipate.

RINA CASTELNUOVO: I can't describe what it is. When you are attacked, it's like random rockets were raining here. And we couldn't stay in shelters or we couldn't deliver the story to readers abroad. So driving days in the streets or along the border with bulletproof jackets and helmets and hoping that this random rocket doesn't fall on your car or on you or near you.

And I think when I take pictures, I don't really have in mind how the picture will be perceived over there or looked at. When I take the picture, I think this is what I feel at that very moment to record, and that's how it works.

TYLER HICKS: Well, when I think about the images that are really seared in my mind from when I was a child -- I mean, I can remember clearly the photos that I saw in textbooks, and in photography books, and newspapers, and magazines from conflicts that happened before I was born.

I hope that someday that people can look at these pictures, and learn something from them, and remember what happened here, because it's a matter of people knowing what happened. And visually that's really a way of my communicating that to them.