Photojournalists show us what happens — but the photographers themselves are witnesses who remain always silent. Photojournalists on War aims to address that gap. In addition to printing the photographs of the war in Iraq, it complements the visual record by giving voice to the people behind the images. Through an unparalleled series of interviews, leading photojournalists from around the world describe and reflect on their experiences during the unfolding of the USA’s nine-year war in Iraq. Their photos and their words combine to show and tell a harrowing tale.

History books about military campaigns rarely come close to the impact achieved by a visual image in capturing what is so unforgivable about war. And the strongest war photographs present the tension, lying at the heart of all photography, between denoting a moment of reality and connoting a frame of meaning that comes into focus at the same time.

This book is the product of five years of interviews with over seventy photojournalists. It begins with Lyndsey Addario (Agence France) walking the streets of Baghdad in jeans and a T-shirt, taking uncensored shots of whatever she likes. The invasion morphs into an occupation and by 2005, Christopher Bangert (New York Times) — one of the few photographers who hasn’t pulled out — is traveling in disguise with armed guards and knows he can never safely spend more than an hour in any one location. Nina Berman (NOOR) sets out to photograph wounded soldiers and encounters difficulties finding support from US publishers. Occupation breeds insurgency and Alan Chin (New York Times) takes a picture of a dead suicide bomber that his newspaper baulked at printing while Ben Brody (a combat cameraman for the United States Army) recalls how "all we did was drive around until we got blown up and then try and find something to shoot at."

Of the seventy interviewed, just under forty men and women have their tales and some of their photographs recorded in this book. The cumulative effect is shattering. Their accounts read like electrifying vignettes of close combat — "It was so tight that I kept my fourteen-millimeter lens on practically the entire time." Their previously unpublished photos capture heartbreaking moments and scenes of torment that raise ethical and political questions about the invasion of Iraq. In more than one interview, mention is made of how no single image has emerged as the iconic photograph of the Iraq War yet this book is full of pictures that could and should be contenders.

Sean Sheehan

Photojournalists on War: The Untold Stories from Iraq
by Michael Kamber
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Hardcover: 300 pages


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