TIME photo essay

A Town Lost in the Wreckage by Edward Keating

The wreckage left by the Force 5 tornado in Joplin, Missouri, defies description and baffles belief. That’s where Edward Keating comes in. The veteran photojournalist blends a tender love for Joplin. A place he knows the city from repeated visits as part of a project he is pursuing on the storied American artery Route 66. With a clear, unflinching eye he documented the aftermath of this weeks tragic storms.

The wreckage left by the Force 5 tornado in Joplin, Mo., defies description and baffles belief. That’s where Edward Keating comes in. The veteran photojournalist blends a tender love for Joplin—he knows the city from repeated visits as part of a project he is pursuing on the storied American artery Route 66—with a clear, unflinching eye. I met him on Tuesday in the midst of the hellscape after he’d spent most of a day trying to reach Joplin from his home in New York. The flight was delayed, then diverted. He wound up driving across Arkansas under skies black with rain and ablaze with horizontal lightning. Even so, he looked straight from Central Casting: slight, bearded, a couple of old Leicas around his neck and a battered camera bag slung over his shoulder. He blew me away with a move I’d never seen before. When he shot portraits of survivors, he noticed they were posing for his camera. So to relax them, he moved his camera away from his face and talked quietly while he clicked away without looking. He had a hand-rolled cigarette hanging from his lip.

—David Von Drehle

Edward Keating is a self-taught photographer who worked on staff for The New York Times from 1991-2002. He shared in the Pulitzer Prize the newspaper received for their coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He is represented by Contact Press Images and based in New York City. More of Keating’s work can be viewed here.

To Read the full story of the aftermath in Joplin, MO read David Von Drehle’s story here.

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