By now, you’ve probably seen the photo of Aylan Kurdi, the 3-year-old refugee from Syria who died with his 5-year-old brother and mother after their small rubber boat capsized on its way to Greece. You might remember his velcro shoes. His red shirt. His lifeless body lying face down in the sand.
The image has opened a debate about the ethics of publishing photos of children suffering and dying. But regardless of one’s position, the photo is now part of a tradition — another iconic image of a child that has shaped our understanding of global events and that will likely live on in our minds for years to come.
In 2000, former Washington Post photographer Carol Guzy spent time at a refugee camp in Albania during the Kosovo crisis and took a photo that won the Pulitzer Prize — one of four in her career. It depicts a young boy being passed through a barbed wire fence at the border.
“It’s actually a joyful photo,” Guzy says. “Families that had escaped ethnic cleansing did not know if their loved ones had survived or not, were lined up on along that fence.” When one family saw their relatives on the other side of the barbed wire, they celebrated and handed their young children back and forth while waiting to be reunited.
Guzy says images of children are particularly moving. “It’s something about being completely at the mercy of events happening around you, and being unable to protect yourself — children especially — that reaches the heart and soul of people,” she says.
Top image: Family members, reunited after fleeing Kosovo, pass 2-year-old Agim Shala through the barbed wire fence into the hands of his grandparents at a camp in Albania. The photo was taken on March 3, 1999.Carol Guzy/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Bottom image: James Dorbor, age 8, was suspected of having Ebola. Medical staff in protective gear carried him into a treatment center on September 5, 2014, in Monrovia, Liberia.Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images