“For me to photograph and document a story on post-traumatic stress disorder and have it published in major news magazines, and then to see the lives of the veterans in my story have not been altered in the least … it definitely was disheartening,” she says. “I wanted to initiate change, even if it was just for a few families.”

But Trieb doesn’t believe that photojournalism as traditionally understood offers those tools today. “This isn’t the age of [James] Nachtwey, where your picture might run on the cover of Time magazine and then millions of dollars are sent to Somalia in aid,” she said, by way of example. “As journalists, what’s our social responsibility to the people we cover or photograph?”

Though not every war-journalist-turned-documentarian shares Trieb’s desire to prompt action on behalf of veterans, the need to make visible the human cost of war, in a way that engages the public, rings nearly universal—and not just in the moments journalist are on the job.

“At some point, to me as a consumer of news, the numbers and policies start getting a little blurry,” Finkel says. “If I do it thoroughly enough,” he hopes, “the numbers not only get a face … [they] become quite real.”

 

Jina Moore was a 2013 New Media Fellow of the International Reporting Project