The Story Behind TIME’s Campus Protests Cover

Over the last few weeks the world has watched and listened as college campuses across the United States became the focal point of American protest against—and debate about—Israel’s war in Gaza, which has killed more than 30,000 people since the Hamas attacks of Oct. 7. As we often do in these moments, TIME photo editors turned to the photographers closest to the story. In this case, that meant student photojournalists from 10 student-run college newspapers— the UCLA Daily Bruin, the Daily Northwestern, the Daily Princetonian, USC’s Daily Trojan, the Daily Texan, the GW Hatchet, the Indiana Daily Student, the Michigan Daily, the Rutgers Daily Targum, and the Vanderbilt Hustler.

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Read more: See TIME’s Campus Protests Cover Story Here

We were impressed not only by the photographs produced by these students, but also by their dedication to telling as much of the story as possible. The responsibility these photographers feel—to get all angles of the story, to keep their fellow students and the general public up-to-date—comes through in every frame. And those of us off campus are fortunate that’s the case. After all, student journalists are the ones really seeing what’s happening on college campuses. They were there before journalists from major news organizations arrived, and they will be there after the international press leaves.

While editing this portfolio, I was also researching archival photos from college protests during the 1960s and 1980s. Those scenes mirror the photos I saw from colleges today—a new set of images that are in conversation with that historical canon. I saw photographers who had the wherewithal to document beyond the high-tension scenes, seeing moments of quiet, shared meals and prayer, students teaching one another. These journalists had also witnessed the escalation that occurred in many places with the arrival of police and counter-protestors—and, even amid the chaos, they made strong photographs that instantly grab your attention. Their images together offer a clearer understanding of what is happening at this moment in time at colleges across the United States, and a strong reminder of the power of photography to capture moments of truth.

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