This story appears in the July 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine.
Carol Guzy, 62, has won four Pulitzer Prizes for photography—more than any other photojournalist. Among her peers she’s known as much for her big heart as for the images she makes in places as different as Iraq, Haiti, and New Orleans. We sent Guzy to cover Puerto Rico (above) after Hurricane Maria. I talked with her about that experience and storytelling.
Susan Goldberg: I learned as a young reporter writing obituaries that everyone has a story…
Carol Guzy: Yes! Everyone has a story, and it’s almost cathartic for people to tell it. But it’s their story—not my story—and it’s amazing to me that people have the courage to open up their lives to the camera.
In nearly 40 years as a photographer, what changes have you seen?
Now there’s such mistrust of the media. It makes it more important than ever that what we portray is as accurate as we, as subjective beings, can make it.
What was it like in Puerto Rico?
I’d never been; my first trip was the day of the hurricane. People were just getting by, yet not one didn’t welcome me into the rubble that was left of their home. They had almost no water but offered us some. There are few places I’ve been where people were so gracious.
You’ve made a career of going into difficult places. What have you learned from what you’ve seen?
When I was covering the refugee camps in Kurdistan, people were living in terrible limbo, and yet there was such an amazing spirit. In Mosul, Iraq, there was horrific urban fighting. People were battered and maimed and yet had this grace. I feel so privileged and so guilty to get on a plane and leave, and they are stuck. People forget them.
Is that why you take pictures—so people won’t forget?
I take pictures to enlighten people to something they are not aware of. If we keep taking the pictures and keep telling the stories, we can make it better. I really believe that.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.
This story is part of Women of Impact, a National Geographic project centered around women breaking barriers in their fields, changing their communities, and inspiring action. Join the conversation in our Facebook group.