The Decade in Photos / by Justin Merriman

For the past 10 years of my life I’ve been fortunate to work behind a camera. I never planned on being a photojournalist, but life has a way of leading us towards things we could never expect. When I picked up a camera for the first time around 1999, I could never have dreamt of the opportunities it would present to me, or the people that it would introduce me to.

Looking back now on all the assignments and images, I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I’ve learned a lot in the past decade, and I’ve come to the realization that what we do as photojournalists isn’t measured in our awards or accolades, but rather in the distinct honor of being invited in to our subjects lives and being witnesses to the world we live in. While I am honored with each award I win, I keep most of them in a dusty box in the bottom of my closet, and only display a few special ones in my office.

When I think back on my proudest moments in my career, I think of the subjects that have passed before my lens who’s lives I am sure I have not changed, but who have changed my life. I think of Ekta, a young girl living on the streets of India, who inspired me to adopt my son from Guatemala. There are few days that pass that I don’t think of her. I think of George, a religious pilgrim who has abandoned any earthly possessions and puts his faith in God to provide for him as he walks hundreds of miles each year on his pilgrimages. I think of Jim Sarkett, now in his 60’s sitting in his modest home in rural Pennsylvania, some fifty years after he was diagnosed with polio and his blood was used by Jonas Salk to create the polio vaccine. I think of a young Pakistani girl, who lives in a small tent, collecting water from a broken pipe in a Christian colony without any electricity or running water. I think of Sgt. Ryan Baumann who was 24 when he was killed in action in Afghanistan, just months before marrying his high-school sweetheart. There are too many individuals to mention each one, but each has a special place in my heart and memory.

These past 10 years have taken me across the world to places I never imagined ever seeing and introduced me to people from world leaders to the unimaginably impoverished. I’ve witnessed sorrow, despair, anger, frustration, fear, loneliness, hunger, sickness, disease, and death, but I’ve also witnessed joy, laughter, pride, charity, and hope. While I’ve made thousands of images I doubt that the world is any better because of any of them, but I know that I am better for each image I make and for each story that I witness. I can only hope that in this next decade I am fortunate enough to continue to do this job that I love so much, to continue to be an invited guest in others’ lives, to continue to be a witness to this world we live in, and to continue to call myself a photojournalist.

This slideshow is a collection of some of my favorite images and stories from the last ten years.