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For some stories, words are inadequate. Michael Amendolia first met Dr. Sanduk Ruit seven years ago in Vietnam. Amendolia was a photographer for an Australian media company, and Ruit was performing cataract operations at a local hospital. The two stayed in touch, and last year Amendolia accompanied the Nepalese surgeon to the Himalayas, where thousands of Tibetan villagers have been blinded by exposure to high-altitude ultraviolet rays. Amendolia's moving photos illustrate about how Ruit restored the sight of scores of villagers, some of whom had been blind for decades. I'm pleased to report that the pictures, which originally appeared in TIME Australia, have won first place in the World Press Photo of the Year Awards, science and technology category. My favorite image among the hundreds I took, says Amendolia, who now lives in Sydney, is of the instant a 73-year-old woman saw her daughter for the first time in three years. The woman just stared for a few seconds. Then she burst into tears.
Amendolia is one of three photographers to win World Press Photo Awards this year for their work in TIME. James Nachtwey's pictures of the killing of a Christian by a Muslim mob in Jakarta last November--examples of the social breakdown plaguing Indonesia since President Suharto's downfall last May--took second prize for spot news stories.
And Chien-Chi Chang won first place in the daily life stories category for his pictures of Chinese immigrants in New York City's Chinatown, which we published last Nov. 9. I spent $120 to rent a bed in a loft that housed at least 60 Chinese illegals and lived with them for a month, says Chang, who was born in Taiwan and resides in New York. It was hot and humid in my airless cubicle, which I shared with two men from Fujian province. I cooked with them, I watched TV with them, I translated their letters for them. I made some photographs whenever I felt it was right to do so. In the end, I really feel sorry for these men. They come to these tenements after an arduous, initially hopeful journey. Yet they cannot assimilate because they speak no English, they cannot go home because they haven't repaid their debts, and they cannot bring their families over because they haven't obtained U.S. green cards. They are trapped on an island within an island.