New Website!

August 8, 2011

Thanks to the amazing skills (not to mention patience) of Steve Fox at Born Digital, I can finally announce that I have a fantastically designed brand new website!

It’s still at the same place, but now it includes this blog AND my archive!

I hope you enjoy and as always, please send any feedback you have.

Go and Purchase This Book

July 26, 2011

My brilliant sister who’s doing post-conflict research on a grant from the Wellcome Trust just handed me a book of amazing poetry called The Not Dead by Simon Armitage.

I’ll be frank.  I normally don’t like poetry, but the poems in this book are so moving and poignant, that I found myself reading and rereading them.

Here’s one of the poems.  After reading it, though, go out and buy the book because the other 8 poems are equally brilliant:

The Not Dead

We are the not dead.
In battle, life would not say goodbye to us.
And crack-shot snipers seemed to turn a blind eye to us.
And even though guns and grenades let fly at us
we somehow survived.

We are the not dead.
When we were young and fully alive for her,
we worshipped Britannia.
We the undersigned
put our names on the line for her.
From the day we were born we were loaded and primed for her.
Prepared as we were, though, to lie down and die for her,
we somehow survived.

So why did she cheat on us?
Didn’t we come running when she most needed us?
When tub-thumping preachers
and bullet-brained leaders
gave solemn oaths and stirring speeches
then fisted the air and pointed eastwards,
didn’t we turn our backs on our nearest and dearest?
From runways and slipways Britannia cheered us,
but returning home refused to meet us,
sent out a crowd of back-biting jeerers
and mealy-mouthed sneerers.
Two-timing, two-faced Britannia deceived us.

We are morbidly ill.
Soldiers with nothing but time to kill,
we idle now in everyday clothes and ordinary towns,
blowing up, breaking down.
If we dive for cover or wake in a heap,
Britannia, from horseback, now crosses the street
or looks right through us.
We seem changed and ghostly to those who knew us.
The country which flew the red white and blue for us
now shows her true colours.
We are the not dead.
Neither happy and proud
with a bar-code of medals across the heart
nor laid in a box and draped in a flag,
we wander this no man’s land instead,
creatures of a different stripe – the awkward, unwanted, unlovable type –
haunted with fears and guilt,
wounded in spirit and mind.

So what shall we do with the not dead and all of his kind?

What We Don’t See

July 26, 2011

A few days ago I received an email from a US Army sergeant stationed in Iraq.  He was writing to tell me how much he wished he had his camera so he could take pictures of the military drawdown going on right now.  In lieu of images, he describes a scene in a parking lot outside the canteen that is so evocative, subtle, and cinematic that I feel it needs to be shared:

With the drawdown picking up speed I see so many things that show the historic nature of it all.

I was walking to chow the other night and had to stop and just watch the scene in the parking lot. It was a line of dirty, beat-up Army big-rigs without trailers parked in a perfect row like they were just regular POVs [Privately Owned Vehicles].  Climbing down to eat was the worn out crew looking like they’d been on the road for months, smacking the dust off their uniforms. I didn’t ask but from how they moved they looked like they were just stoked to sit down and get a decent meal for a change.

The gravel lots full of MRAPS cleaned up for the trip home (or another front), the eerily abandoned buildings looking like they’d been used day in and day out for the last seven years, and the now empty sections of base that were bustling with activity just a month ago show a mass transit that most people could never imagine, let alone ever get the chance to see.

More Brilliant Things from Kapuscinski

July 21, 2011

When I was back in New York in May, a few of my photos were shown in the New York Photo Festival as part of an enormous collection of images from the “Arab Spring.”  Something very strange happened when I saw my photos, among hundreds of others, projected onto the interior wall of the DUMBO railway arches.

Until that point, I had seen my photographs as images of events that I had witnessed.  They were still images of moments.  That was it.

Well, it wasn’t.  Seeing them up on the wall I realized that these photographs had become historical documents, that the moment I take a photograph I create a document of the past.  My photographs, along with all the photographs ever taken and ever to be taken are documents of history.  Which is a frightening burden when you think about it.

Probably best not to, in fact.

And here, my new friend Kapuscinski puts it brilliantly, “…history is merely an uninterrupted progression of presents…”

Did Ryszard Kapuscinski Know Me?

July 20, 2011

So, I just finished reading Travels with Herodotus by the legendary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski.  I don’t think I’ve underlined as much in one book as I did in this, but there is one passage that really stands out and is so poignant, that I had to share:

“Such people, while useful, even agreeable, to others, are, if truth be told, frequently unhappy–lonely in fact. Yes, they seek out others, and it may even seem to them that in a certain country or city they have managed to find true kinship and fellowship, having come to know and learn about a people; but they wake up one day and suddenly feel that nothing actually binds them to these people, that they can leave here at once. They realize that another country, some other people, have now beguiled them, and that yesterday’s most riveting event now pales and loses all meaning and significance.  For all intents and purposes, they do not grow attached to anything, do not put down deep roots. Their empathy is sincere, but superficial.  If asked which of the countries they have visited they like best, they are embarrassed–they do not know how to answer.  Wich one? In a certain sense–all of them.  There is something compelling about each.  To which country would they like to return once more? Again, embarrassment–they had never asked themselves such a question.  The one certainty is that they would like to be back on the road, going somewhere.  To be on their way again–that is the dream.”

A Soldier’s Answer to “Why Would Anyone Miss War?”

July 20, 2011

Over two weeks before Sebastian Junger’s Op-Ed in the NYTimes was published I was in the middle of a vibrant e-mail correspondence with a sergeant in the US Army I’d met in Kirkuk.  He wrote to tell me–among other things–that he had read my piece on covering the conflict in Libya and it had struck a nerve with him:

“Your commentary on the lure of war to conflict journalists was spot-on.  It was partly the adrenaline that brought me back here to Iraq for the second time but it was so much more. The extremity of the moments here make life so much more vivid but it’s also the ability to make a difference in individual lives, politics, national and international policy.”

As soon as I read it, I asked the sergeant–who’s asked to remain nameless–if I could publish this part of his email.  I asked because there is something so moving to me about his words.  I have this image of the two of us on patrol.  Both with helmets and flack-jackets on, each with a large black metal apparatus in front of our faces, pointing at something we’re about to shoot.  Our reasons for being there couldn’t be more different and at the same time couldn’t be more similar.

BBC Interview

July 3, 2011

When I was back in the states in May, I did an interview for my friend Marc who’s a producer in the BBC’s Washington bureau.

It’s against BBC policy to allow people to embed videos off their site, so here’s the link.

If you have any questions or comments about it, let me know.  I’d love to hear them.


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