Instagramming Typhoon Haiyan

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Using his iPhone, a photographer chronicles destruction, death, and resilience in the Philippines weeks after the storm. Kevin Frayer

Typhoon Haiyan devastated the city of Tacloban in the Philippines after it struck on November 8. When I arrived there at the end of the month, the scene remained overwhelming: Houses were piles of scrap, trees had been ripped from the ground, and cars lay mangled. People were still pulling bodies from the debris – the death toll stands at more than 5,700 – weeks after the storm hit.

That was actually my second trip to Tacloban after the storm, which is called Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. In the days following Yolanda's landfall, I had spent a couple of weeks there on assignment as a photojournalist, and after a short break at home in Beijing, I felt the need to return. I wanted to continue documenting what happened, because although global headlines had shifted to other world events, the situation on the ground there remained dire.

I used Instagram to document what I saw. Shooting with a smartphone has obvious constraints – it doesn't work well in low light – but it allows you to take pictures more discreetly. Many cell towers were damaged or destroyed, but even in the early days after the storm I was able to find areas with limited coverage to upload images.

I was amazed at how warm the people of Tacloban were to outsiders. They extended their hospitality and shared what little food and water they had. I felt humbled and was struck by how people struggled for shreds of normalcy. To watch residents pluck family photos from the rubble, line up quietly for aid, help a neighbor in need, or start a game of pickup basketball revealed a lot about the human capacity for resilience.

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The city of #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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A family sits on the balcony of their destroyed home in #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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The rubble. The city of #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 28, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Waking up in #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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A body bag lay in the rubble as a man salvages in his destroyed home in #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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An umbrella and captain’s hat salvaged from the rubble. In the city of #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Aerial view of the landscape south of #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda #nature #environment. December 1, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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A headless statue of Jesus Christ outside a church in #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda #nature #environment. November 30, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Sunday Mass at San Antonio Church. #samar #philippines #typhoon #yolanda #nature #environment. November 30, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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The destroyed San Antonio Church. #samar #philippines #typhoon #yolanda #nature #environment. November 30, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Digging a body out of the rubble at dusk. Near San Joaquin outside #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda #nature #environment. November 30, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Taking cover from the rain in #tacloban #philippines. November 26, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Wrecked house. #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Collecting the dead in #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Waiting to rebuild. The city of #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 28, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Digging out. The devastated city of #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Cleaning up debris in #Tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 27, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Street barber in #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 28, 2013. Kevin Frayer
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Devastation. #tacloban #philippines #typhoon #yolanda. November 29, 2013. Kevin Frayer