Tag Archive: iraq

Worth a look: War Torn – An Iraq Veteran’s Story

Wall Street Journal photo editor Matthew Craig and photographer Brandon Thibodeaux recently produced a powerful multimedia piece focusing on Iraq veteran Ian Welch’s life in the US after an artillery round exploded near him during the 2003 fight for Baghdad. The piece was produced over the last year and combines still photography, video, and audio interviews, offering an intimate look at the way Welch and those who surround him cope with life after his traumatic time in Iraq. Be sure to watch the editing and sound design around the 6 minute mark when Welch’s girlfriend discusses the difficulties of dealing with his PTSD. The piece, especially the final minute as Welch describes his fears for the future, is a strong reminder of the long-lasting toll of the past decade of war. You can read the accompanying article here: For Wounded Vet, Love Pierces the Fog of War

Worth a Look: Gabriela Bulisova’s “Option of Last Resort”

A little while ago Gabriela Bulisova sent us a link to her project “Option of Last Resort: Iraqi Refugees in the United States”. It is a challenging look at the issue of Iraqi refugees who are struggling to settle in the United States. Many of them assisted the Americans during the conflict, as translators or contractors, which put them in profound danger of reprisals.

The radio show This American Life had an episode earlier this year called “Will They Know Me Back Home?” (and one last year too, called Iraq After Us, which has a slightly more convoluted example) which touched on the issue of Iraqi colleagues who are attempting to immigrate to the US, surprising me that such an important and looming story – how do we treat the people who helped us – had eluded my attention for so long. Bulisova’s project brings us that much further into understanding the stories of Iraqis who are making the difficult transition from war to a new life in the United States, which had created such a troubled relationship in the first place. Her strong pictures are supplemented by startling quotes about life in Iraq and their treatment as refugees and their hopes for the future. I fear that issues like this, which are much quieter and are the more subtle repercussions of war, remain out of sight for many of us.

OPTION OF LAST RESORT: Iraqi Refugees in the United States. from gabriela bulisova on Vimeo.

from Bulisova’s introduction to the project:
Some of the most recent Iraqi refugees in America had signed up to serve as translators working for the U.S. military or as experts with other U.S. government agencies, NGOs, or American companies in Iraq. They saved lives; they built cultural and linguistic bridges; they sacrificed their own safety and the safety of their families to help participate in what they thought would be the creation of a better Iraq. They quickly became one of the most hunted groups in the country. They bore a lethal stigma as “collaborators” or “traitors” that transcended sect or tribe, and they were targeted in assassination campaigns that drove many of them either into hiding or out of the country.

For people who fear for their life and seek refugee status in America, the U.S. government offers resettlement as the “option of last resort” for the most vulnerable refugees. In this project, I photographed and interviewed Iraqi refugees who have been resettled to the United States and are living in Washington, D.C. or other American cities.

Dvafoto: How did you come to work on this project?
I worked with Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2007 and 2008 (the project can be seen on my website), and upon returning back to DC and while doing advocacy work with the photographs (the great displacement of Iraqis was an under reported story then and I tried to raise awareness), I learned about Iraqis in the US, specifically in the DC-area, who were affiliated with the US Army, government agencies, etc. and faced certain death if they did not flee. I connected with The List Project (an advocacy NGO that helps via legal means to speed up the extremely lengthy and difficult immigration process – even though those Iraqis are being targeted with assassination attempts and thus should be the number one priority for political asylum). And, then, slowly, very slowly, I was able to build trust and convince my subjects that I can photograph them without ever revealing their faces and their identities (few of them did not mind showing their faces – their entire families were either here or killed so they had nothing else to fear).

Where have you been able to show these pictures, and where else do you plan to?
It’s currently a part of the OSI’s Moving Walls 18 exhibit, parts of the project have been exhibited at different galleries (physical and on-line, including Burn magazine). I would love to continue working on the project – especially, I think, it’s timely right now to go to Iraq as the US is withdrawing its troops and there is no protection for the thousands of people who are-and-were affiliated with the US. The fear is that they will become the number one target again. That said, I would love to keep showing this work and, potentially, would also love to continue working on it.

“How the media inflated the fall of Saddam’s statue” – Pro Publica and the New Yorker

Google image search for: saddam statue taken down

Google image search for: saddam statue taken down

The toppling of Saddam’s statue turned out to be emblematic of primarily one thing: the fact that American troops had taken the center of Baghdad. That was significant, but everything else the toppling was said to represent during repeated replays on television—victory for America, the end of the war, joy throughout Iraq—was a disservice to the truth. Yet the skeptics were wrong in some ways, too, because the event was not planned in advance by the military. -Peter Maass, The Toppling: How the Media Inflated the Fall of Saddam’s Statue in Firdos Square

Peter Maass, writing jointly for the New Yorker and Pro Publica, has just published a fascinating investigation into the toppling of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square. I haven’t gotten through the whole article yet, but it’s well worth a read. The piece features interviews and anecdotes from a few photographers on the scene, including Jan Grarup, Gary Knight, Laurent Van der Stockt, Seamus Conlan, and their perceptions of the event as it unfolded.

Michael Kamber talks about increasing military censorship in Iraq

Michael Kamber, contract photographer for the New York Times, talks with BagNewsNotes about military censorship in Iraq. The gradual increase of censorship is troubling–Kamber describes that at first, anything was fair game to shoot, but gradually car bomb scenes were off-limits, then hospitals, then morgues, then prisoners, then wounded soldiers, and so on. Kamber makes a great point, saying, “I think that we need to publish those photos for history even if we can’t get them in the newspaper today.” Head over to BagNewsNotes for discussion.

Leaked 2007 video shows US military killing 2 Reuters journalists and 10 others in Iraq

Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen runs for his life (US military video)

Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen runs for his life (US military video)

“5th April 2010 10:44 EST WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff.

Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded.” -Collateral Murder by Wikileaks

The New York Times reports, “An online whistleblowing group [WikiLeaks] has circulated online classified U.S. military video showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff.” Wikileaks says the classified video and supporting documents were provided by US military whistleblowers. The video is available on youtube, and WikiLeaks has posted many screengrabs.

While you’re at it, here’s an interesting read on various governments’ efforts to stop WikiLeaks.

Interview: Jeremy M. Lange – The War at Home

I first met Jeremy M. Lange at a lecture we were both attending at ICP in 2006. We’d corresponded by email before, and he somehow recognized me in the crowd. I left New York later that year, and shared my last meal in the city with him. He continued freelancing in the city for a while before moving to North Carolina, producing along the way a strong and varied body of work, ranging from (legal) kidnappers for hire to Mexican presidential politics to barbershops to religious faith. His recent project, “The War At Home” is a wide-ranging piece covering the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the perspective of those in the US. Do yourself a favor, and spend some time on his site. I asked Lange if he’d be willing to share his perspective on “The War at Home” over email. The discussion is below:

dvafoto: First, for our readers who might not be familiar with your work, where are you based and what publication do you work for? What sort of time on the job do you have to work on personal projects? How open is your publication to your story pitches?

Jeremy M. Lange: I am based in Durham, North Carolina, my hometown, which I returned to in 2007 after 3 years of school, 6 months in Mexico, and 3.5 years in New York City. I have a slightly odd arrangement in that I am a staff, or contract photographer, for the Independent Weekly, an alt weekly that covers the Research Triangle area of NC. I work 6 months a year guaranteed for them, one month on, one month off, and freelance the other 6, but I am able to take freelance jobs for all 12 months of the year, provided that I have all my responsibilities taken care of for the paper on the months I am on. The Indy is great in many ways, but especially in that me and the other photographer have almost complete artistic freedom in how we shoot the stories we are assigned and we get a little more time to invest in denser stories because it is a weekly. Deadlines do build up, but we have the ability to work our schedules out as we please as long as everything is done on time. Also, we can pitch stories at will and with a good argument, they tend to run them, as long as the story fits into the general guidelines of the paper, news, social justice, culture, it is pretty broad. Personal projects are much more easily blended into the paper than in others I have heard of. It can still be hard to find the time, and money, for personal projects, but that is always the case it seems. I think it falls more on you to make that time than anything else.

As a freelancer, I work a lot for the New York Times, who I have been working with since I lived in NYC and ran around for the Metro section, RIP, several days a week. They were the first real paper I worked for and have been great to me over the last few years. Thanks.

Other than that, I fill out my schedule with other editorial jobs, band shoots, portraits, whatever comes down the pipe. I think in smaller markets we are all forced to generalize a bit, but it is fun in that I learn new things from shooting different types of stories all the time. My background is in news and documentary, but I really enjoy shooting just about anything, with a few exceptions. Challenges keep you on your toes and I like the idea of photographing James Taylor one day and Christmas tree farms the next.

What got you started on “War at Home”? When did you know you were on to a bigger story with so many different threads to follow?

I met a soldier named Kristian Hofeller when I lived in Bushwick, Brooklyn in 2006. A package was misdelivered to my apartment and I rode up the street to drop it off at the right house and while speaking to the lady who answered the door, she mentioned that her son had just gotten back from Iraq. I asked if he might want to talk to me about it and take some photos, and I gave her my number and he called me couple of days later. We met at his house and drank some coffee and talked a little but he seemed sort of uncomfortable in his mom’s house so we went out to his truck and he basically broke down the last 5 years of his life to me. 1st responder to the WTC, off to Afghanistan, got in some trouble there, back home, marital problems, divorce, back to Iraq, back home… it blew my mind. He must have talked for over an hour with me just sitting in his truck listening and saying nothing really, I mean what the hell did I know about that? He got in some legal trouble while back in the US and therefore could not get a job, or at least a decent one, so he was considering going back to the military fulltime, he was on Reserve, or with a private contractor. They, the contractors, were offering him big money, he came from a blue collar family, but he did not really want to go. He had lost his wife and friends because of the war, but he really had no other options. We smoked and sat in the truck and he talked and then I went home, saying we would get together soon and shoot some photos. I had no idea what to do with what he told me, so I wrote down as much as I could remember, this is why an art degree can be a disadvantage, I should have taken notes, but I got it down for the most part, I like to listen.

We met again a couple of weeks later and went all the way out in Long Island to shoot some guns with an Army buddy and an older guy from his neighborhood. He would not really let me make any photos of him, but I got a shot of an Osama bin Laden target in a sand pit that has stuck around through all the edits, as well as one of his truck with a backwards “American Hero” emblem in the windshield. So I shot some really cool guns and we talked a lot, Kristian, me and his Army buddy, and then they took me home. We never talked again, he did not return my calls after that, not sure why, but I heard he went back to Iraq not long after. It stuck with me but I was trying to hustle in NYC and that was it for a while.

Not long after I got back to NC I shot a NYT story about a private contractor killed in Iraq, Brent Gray. We went to the grave with his wife and sister and some friends and then to a bar where we met some other guys who had served with him. I was so interested in what they were talking about and how little I knew about it. This is 5 or 6 years after we invaded Afghanistan and 3 after Iraq and I knew next to nothing about what people here were going through. I am not from a military family, but I have always been interested in it, the guns, the adventure and was about one stamp away from Marine basic training after high school. So I started looking around to find stories related to returning soldiers and other aspects of the war’s affects on the country and realized I had a huge pile of ideas.

Your “War at Home” project is pretty far-reaching. What ties it all together? What’s it about?
Read on »

Richard Mosse’s Breach

BLDGBLOG has posted a great interview with Richard Mosse about his new project “Breach” in which he photographed Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Iraq and some of their current use by the US Military. (They also interviewed him a year ago for his series on Air Disaster Simulations)

The most interesting thing about the whole endeavor for me was the very fact that the U.S. had chosen to occupy Saddam’s palaces in the first place. If you’re trying to convince a population that you have liberated them from a terrible dictator, why would you then sit in his throne? A savvier place to station the garrison would have been a place free from associations with Saddam, and the terror and injustices that the occupying forces were convinced they’d done away with. Instead, they made the mistake of repeating history.


BLDGBLOG: What was the basic story behind your visit to Iraq? Was it self-funded or sponsored by a gallery?

Richard Mosse: The trip was backed by a Leonore Annenberg Fellowship in the Performing and Visual Arts, which I received after graduating from Yale last summer with an MFA in photography. The Fellowship provides enough to fund two full years of traveling to make new photographs, and I applied to shoot in a range of places, including Iraq. My proposal was to make work around the idea of the accidental monument. I’m interested in the idea that history is something in a constant state of being written and rewritten—and the way that we write history is often plain to see in how we affect the world around us, in the inscriptions we make on our landscape, and in what stays and what goes.

A new photo in the White House

Andrew Craft / Fayetteville Observer - First Lady Michelle Obama looks at a photograph that was given to her as a gift from the city as Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne introduces her Thursday at the Fayetteville Arts Center on Hay Street.  The framed photograph was taken by Fayetteville Observer photographer Andrew Craft.

Andrew Craft / Fayetteville Observer - First Lady Michelle Obama looks at a photograph that was given to her as a gift from the city as Fayetteville Mayor Tony Chavonne introduces her Thursday at the Fayetteville Arts Center on Hay Street. The framed photograph was taken by Fayetteville Observer photographer Andrew Craft.

A lot of photojournalists hope their photos can make a difference. Informing the public is one avenue, having powerful people who make decisions see the photos is another. Andrew Craft‘s great photo, of a military family saying goodbye as the husband and father ships off for deployment, will be doing the latter. He talks a little about it here and his paper mentions the event here.

The city of Fayetteville, North Carolina, decided to give Craft’s photo, taken as a staff photographer for the the Fayetteville Observer, to Michelle Obama on her recent visit to the city. Receiving the photo, a stark portrayal of the domestic toll of the war in Iraq, Michelle Obama said, “Thank you…this picture is just moving. It says so much, and it is going up in my office tomorrow.” Video of the speech at C-Span.

Two shoe salute

Creator unknown - Bush ducks 2 shoes thrown during a press conference in Iraq

Creator unknown - Bush ducks two shoes thrown during a press conference in Iraq

As is being widely reported today, a credentialed journalist threw two shoes at outgoing US president George W. Bush during a press conference in Iraq yesterday. BagNewsNotes has the usual interesting analysis, with a nod toward previous shoes hurled at politicians in Iraq. The New York Times has another video of the incident from an angle different from the animated gif above. As one commenter on metafilter notes, Bush’s reaction is that of a man who has clearly had things thrown at him before.

The symbolism of shoes being thrown may be lost on western viewers, though the meaning is being widely reported. The above video, from Iraq in 2003, shows a man defiling a banner of Saddam Hussein with his shoes. I remember photos and video of kids attacking the fallen statue of Hussein in Baghdad in 2003, also, but can’t find those images. Getty has a typical picture of men attacking a statue with their shoes.

New York Times, 14 Dec 2008 - AFP photo by Saul Loeb - Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, tried to block President Bush when a man threw his shoes at the president during a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday.

New York Times, 14 Dec 2008 - AFP photo by Saul Loeb - Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, tried to block President Bush when a man threw his shoes at the president during a news conference in Baghdad on Sunday.

I’m particularly struck by the photo chosen by the New York Times to lead their coverage. The photo by Saul Loeb of the AFP, shows Bush, blurry and indistinct, while Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki remains standing with arms outstretched. Here we have an Iraqi, standing tall and staying the course, protecting the American.

Required Reading: Doonesbury

I don’t know when I started getting in to Doonesbury heavily, probably early in college, but I’ve become almost fanatic about Garry Trudeau’s work.. I have most of the anthologies and reread all of the time (often right before bed..). I swear, I’ve learned more about American history (well, mostly the politics) from the 1970s through present from Doonesbury than any other source. Iran Contra? Bork? the wonders of Dan Quayle? all detailed in dark hilarity in Doonesbury over the years. Trudeau even covers wars, in astonishing depth and respectability (he was the first cartoonist to win a Pulitzer!), and has received much attention for his portrayal of the current Iraq War .. where a main character loses a leg, a running storyline about sexual abuse in the military and I think once a year publishing all of the names of soldiers killed in battle.

Obviously, not your average cartoon.

Doonesbury for 10/5/08

Doonesbury for 10/5/08

Well, I meant to keep this short and just post a link to a funny ‘toon and leave it at that .. but maybe the extended info will convince you of checking out, and keeping up with, Doonesbury: The Daily Dose at Slate.com (an online magazine that does a number of wonderful things, including required podcast “The Political Gabfest”, more on that in a later post I’m sure)