Photojournalist Grapples with Famous Photo

In this article in Sunday’s Washington Post, former Army Times photographer Warren Zinn writes about learning that the subject of perhaps his most famous photo had killed himself. In 2003, Zinn took a photo of Army medic Joseph Dwyer carrying a wounded Iraqi boy that was hailed for its power and message of heroic sacrifice. Dwyer, 31, who was battling PTSD, died of an overdose on June 28. That lead Zinn, who is now attending law school in Miami, to do some soul-searching of his own. As he writes:  

Did this photo have anything to do with his death? News reports said he hated the celebrity that came with the picture. How much, I wondered, did that moment — just 1/250th of a second when three lives intersected on a river bank in Iraq — contribute to the burdens he’d brought home with him? If I’d never taken his picture, would he have ended up as he did? 

After four rotations in Afghanistan and Iraq, Zinn decided the risk wasn’t worth it anymore. He heard from Dwyer via email intermittently, the last one in 2004 saying, “Now looking back on it, it’s one of the greatest things I’ve ever done. I hope you feel the same about what you have done. I truly believe you played an important role in this war. You told everyone’s story.”


But Zinn seems circumspect about that role and his notoriety, writing: 

I’m a little embarrassed when people call the photo iconic or compare it with other famous photos. I was a photojournalist doing my job, just like hundreds of others in Iraq. There were countless pictures produced during the invasion that were better composed, better exposed and more compelling.

 Article from The Washington Post. 

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