Posts Tagged 'Afghanistan'

No Nukes: America’s Dissipating Anti-War Movement

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This essay was shot back in 2011, but for some reason it was never published here or anywhere else.  Nowadays, there’s not even a whisper from LA’s anti-war movement.

Continue reading ‘No Nukes: America’s Dissipating Anti-War Movement’

Interview: Ashley Gilbertson’s “Bedrooms of the Fallen”

Photo by Ashley Gilbertson

Ashley Gilbertson never set out to be a combat photographer. But he did spend six years in Iraq, mostly for the New York Times, documenting the war and daily life of the country. Then he switched gears, feeling frustrated and disenchanted with war coverage, and wanting a new way to look at war. In his project, “Bedrooms of the Fallen,” Gilbertson photographs the empty, intact rooms of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan – rooms that are filled with emotion, sorrow and promise. (Last week he won a National Magazine Award for “The Shrine Down the Hall,” an essay published in the Times Magazine.) Here, he talked with us about the project.

How did you first come upon the idea of “Bedrooms of the Fallen”?
It was my wife’s idea. I’d been working a lot on issues about fallen soldiers and about death. We were sitting together one day and she said, “You need to shoot their bedrooms.” And, as usual, she was right.

How do you find the bedrooms?
Searching the Washington Post’s faces of the fallen, local newspapers, White Pages, Facebook. And then it’s just a question of speaking to each family.

Is it difficult to make the initial phone call to the families? What has been the reaction overall?
It changes from day to day. And is it difficult? Of course, but I see it as a minor difficulty. Every time, I just imagine the intense pain and grief that family is going through.

Do you get a sense the families will ever change the bedrooms, or will they be shrines forever?
Again, it changes from family to family. I have a sense some of these rooms will be shrines forever, yes, and I know others have been boxed up.

You were able to get the final funding for the project through Kickstarter. More and more photographers are turning to it, from Tomas can Houtryve to Bruce Gilden. What are your thoughts on it as a new model for funding photojournalism?
I think it’s totally inspiring to work with our audience so directly. I hope it’s something which is sustainable, but we’ll see.

Do any of the bedrooms you’ve photographed belong to soldiers you met or traveled with in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Yes, Kirk Bosselman. I knew him from Falluja.

Why did you choose to do the series in black and white?
So that the viewer had an even playing field to explore the objects in the room. I didn’t want colours to lead you away from things in their bedrooms that might connect with a viewer.

Can one be anything but a pessimist when covering war?
Yes. I always have faith in the human spirit.

You’ve said you had PTSD after working in Iraq. Has that subsided over time, or do you think that will be with you always?  
I think PTSD is something you’ll always have, but you learn how to carry.

Is it essential to have colleagues with similar experience that you can talk with?
Yes, it helps a lot, as does seeing a shrink.

Despite the obvious dangers in the job, the recent deaths of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington were still very shocking. Do combat photographers feel the risk every day, do they ignore it, how does that work?
If you don’t feel the risk involved, or ignore it, you’re not doing your job properly. One needs to be very aware of everything happening around him at any given time.

Do you ever get burnt out, and how do you deal with that?
Of course I get burnt out. The greatest thing in my life is that I have a wonderful wife and son. I come home to them after an assignment, or a long day, and I can unwind and recharge. And of course, sometimes we take a holiday.

What is your work process like — do you operate on instincts or careful planning?
It’s all a mix of planning and instinct. You need to have done your research about any story you immerse yourself into. I’ll find out who/what/where, etc., before embarking on any trip, but once there, you have to trust your instincts to ensure you find a powerful image.

What is next for you?
More PTSD, suicide and other issues of war on the home front.

The Fauxtog Does It Again

discarted

I’ve been called a lot of things in my lifetime, some good and some bad.  But after the Espinoza video was released in 2010, a working photographer based in Los Angeles, who I thought was a friend, sent me an email calling me a fauxtog — ouch.

Hate this fauxtog more than the drunkk

So it’s a great feeling when you’re the only photographer to capture the most important moment of the anti-war rally that took place in Hollywood on March 19 — which was the arrests of 11 brave members of Military Families Speak Out for staging a sit-in at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

Continue reading ‘The Fauxtog Does It Again’

discarted

More “Kill Team” Mementos From the Front Lines

Photo: Rolling Stone

If Der Spiegel’s photos last week weren’t enough of a taste of the twisted stuff that went on with the “Kill Team” soldiers, Rolling Stone has just published 15 more. In the accompanying article, writer Mark Boal details how two soldiers, Cpl. Jeremy Morlock and Pfc. Andrew Holmes, threw a grenade at, and then opened fire on, a teenage Afghan boy for the pure fun of it.

Then, in a break with protocol, the soldiers began taking photographs of themselves celebrating their kill. Holding a cigarette rakishly in one hand, Holmes posed for the camera with Mudin’s bloody and half-naked corpse, grabbing the boy’s head by the hair as if it were a trophy deer. Morlock made sure to get a similar memento.

 Because there were no repercussions for this killing, the soldiers in the 3rd Platoon were emboldened to go on a murderous rampage over the next four months and kill at least three more innocent Afghans.

Boal writes about the enormous cache of photos and video that was created by members of the platoon during this time, which was a clear violation of Army rules — you cannot take photos of the dead and you certainly can’t share them. (I’m not sure if there is specific rule about creating a clip of two Afghans being blown up set to rock music, but I’m assuming that’s also frowned upon.)

And the army, naturally, tried to cover it all up.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal and President Hamid Karzai were reportedly briefed on the photos as early as May, and the military launched a massive effort to find every file and pull the pictures out of circulation before they could touch off a scandal on the scale of Abu Ghraib.

The article is a must-read, and not in the way that “here’s more proof all military are bad.” Not by a long shot. But this behavior undermines everything the US says it stands for, and excusing and accommodating sociopaths in uniform is never the best policy. That the government does this time and time again is just so disheartening.

Der Spiegel Publishes Horrific “Kill Team” Photos

Via Speigel Online International

It is so odd that, despite being a free country with a voracious and independent media, here in the US we don’t publish photos of our military doing God-awful things. Because that, I guess, is just crossing the line.

German newsmagazine Der Spiegel doesn’t care about that line, and went ahead and published two photos of Army soldiers posing with the bodies of Afghan civilians they killed. (The magazine says it has about 4,000 images and videos total.) The Americans in the photos are part of a so-called “kill team” of 12 soldiers that enjoyed murdering unarmed civilians and are now being charged with war crimes.

A lot of defense hawks will claim the photos will provoke backlash, including targeted attacks on US troops, and that is why they shouldn’t be published. I say not committing atrocious thrill kills and then posing for trophy photos would be a better way to prevent backlash. (To reiterate, the soldiers took 4,000 pieces of photos and video to serve as momentos.)

A quick scan of the few major US outlets that ran the story, like the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, showed they used official army portraits of the accused men to illustrate the story.

Time to replace Bradley Manning with these “heroes.”

Via Speigel Online International

The Vanishing Anti-War Movement

War, it seems, is a bipartisan venture, which is reflected by the fact that Democrats have a favorable view of Obama’s foreign policy, despite its remarkable similarity to George W. Bush’s foreign policy. And though there have been rumblings of antiwar sentiment from some on the Right, Republicans remain strongly in favor of an interventionist foreign policy.



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