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Dec 10, 2007
SGT Jason Thompson waits for a nurse to clean his face of blood and grime after he was wounded along with two of his soldiers when an IED hit their vehicle. All three soldiers were returned to duty.
Peter van Agtmael “studied history at Yale University. After graduation, he went to China on a fellowship to photograph the areas of the Yangtze River being inundated by the Three Gorges Dam. Peter lived in South Africa in 2005, and worked extensively throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently working on a long-term project about the toll of America’s wars, at home and abroad. In 2006, Peter was named one of “25 under 25 - Up and Coming American Photographers” by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. And in 2007, he came second in the General News Stories category at the World Press Photo awards for his coverage of night raids in Iraq.” (source) Peter emailed me after I had commented on an Iraq war photo, and after we started talking, I asked him whether he’d be up for a conversation. I’m very glad he agreed to it.
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Jun 2, 2006
If there is any kind of photography that I have my problems with it is photojournalistic photography from war zones. I usually refer to it as “war pornography”, and by that I mean that photos of dead or maimed soldiers or civilians are often just used for a cheap thrill, not unlike the sexual equivalent. Needless to say, this point of view is not all that fair. People usually tell me that photos from wars have the power to change our perception of wars; and I think a large part of my repulsion stems from me simply not seeing much evidence for that to be true. You just have to think back a few years, back when the Iraq war was not a very unpopular war that nobody really wanted, but a war that was necessary, with good reasons - I’m sure you will remember the jingoism. It was almost like those images from Vietnam, say, or the absolutely gruesome images from the earlier Gulf War. I will admit that some images have had an impact on the public’s perception of an ongoing war, but in all cases that I can think of, the war had already gone on for many - too many - years.
Following one of my posts about some war photography, Roger Richards emailed me, and we had a brief exchange of emails about various topics. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to talk to somebody who had actually worked as a photojournalist during a war - Roger spent a long time in Bosnia during and after the war there. I think if there is any insight to be gained into the topic of what this kind of photojournalism can achieve and how it might have to be done, then that insight will not come from people who are writing articles (or silly blogs) from the comforts of their middle-class existences, but from people who have actually experienced the conditions, which produced the images we get to see. I was thus very happy to learn that Roger agreed to participate in one of my conversations with photographers.
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