For former Post-Gazette photojournalist Martha Rial, an assignment to document human struggle in Central Africa amid the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Rwanda and Burundi was her first international experience. She traveled in December 1996 to Africa and met up with her sister, a nurse for the International Rescue Committee in Tanzania. “It was an incredible place to start,” Ms. Rial said recently.
She focused on covering the human dimension of the civil conflict: children, women, men, mass migration. Her album “Trek of Tears,” published in the Post-Gazette in January 1997, received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for spot news photography “for her life-affirming portraits of survivors of the conflicts in Rwanda and Burundi.”
Is there a photograph in the “Trek of Tears” series that stands out for the photographer herself?
“I am attached to all of them,” said Ms. Rial, who later worked at the St. Petersburg Times and has returned to Pittsburgh as a freelance photographer. “There is one photo capturing the flow of Rwandan Hutu refugees trudging along a road in Tanzania. It was a very difficult photo to get. There were a lot of people on the road with as many possessions as they could carry.”
Ms. Rial was staying with aid workers in Tanzania, one of them gave her a lift to capture the flow of people. ”We had to be very careful. We drove for many, many miles. It took almost three hours to get that shot.”
The original caption for this photograph read: “They had tried to flee further away from Rwanda, into Tanzania, but had been turned back by Tanzanian soldiers. Several of the refugees said they would walk all the way to Kenya or Malawi just so they could avoid returning to Rwanda.”