About two days ago I got an email from the wife of one of the soldiers I was with in Afghanistan saying that I had got the captions wrong on some of my photos. This was HUGE professional mistake that I needed to fix immediately, so I emailed her back to find out which ones.
I find her response one of the most moving and telling documents of what it’s like to be a soldier’s wife (the following names have been changed to keep anonymity):
Jen Steadman: As I was looking through the pictures for my husband I noticed that you had some names wrong.
Me: Thanks for pointing that out. Which ones?
Jen Steadman: 150 and 151 are labeled Ben Stenlin are you sure its him and not Sgt Steadman? Maybe its just that I want it to be him. I feel stupid asking but its so hard to tell.
NB. Jen was right and the captions have been changed.
A few days ago I got the following email from the father of one the soldiers I was with in Afghanistan (I’ve changed the names):
Regardless of your politics; the Afghan and Iraq wars need to be documented. Thank you for your effort and placing yourself in danger to do so. My son is with the 1-75 Bonecrushers; he was recently reassigned to Lt. Johnson’s platoon, though I did not see him in your photos, his name is Corry. I would be interested in other photos of the 1-75 troops if they are available for viewing? Stay safe.
In essence these are the words of loving and concerned father who’s desperate to see and possibly understand what his son is going through. But what struck me more than anything was the opening of his email, Regardless of your politics.
I’ve spent the past few days thinking about this and trying to figure out what he meant by it or why he even felt the need to say it. Nothing in my photos or in my captions has any political slant to it what-so-ever. My only guess is that America remains so divided politically that if you suspect someone of having differing political views, you have to immediately absolve them of it, otherwise there’s no way of finding common ground. Am I right? Is America that divided these days? Have we reached such a low point that we have to excuse each other’s political views before we can talk?
Very recently I’ve been overcome by an obsession with video and video production. Almost all of my shots are videos of still images I see. I just simply replace the sills camera with the video camera on a tripod.
So I’ve been putting some of this material together into short clips, not focusing on making traditional pieces, but more on making short evocative moments. For the time being I’m calling them Video Poems (we’ll see if the name sticks.)
Here’s one from an air assault I shot a few weeks back in Afghanistan.
People Smoke Crack and Watch Friends: Discuss
A radio station discusses one of my photos (towards the end of the program, mind you) that’s in the Art of Photography Show in San Diego.
I feel a little famous today…
Check it out here.
A country of contrasts
The evening before I left Kabul Hossein Fatemi, the massively talented Iranian photographer and Jason Motlagh, the prodigious TIME reporter took me to the Darul Aman Palace on the outskirts of the city.
Young men ran around kicking soccer balls at the foot of the war-scarred château. The visual juxtaposition between present and past; hope and despair; sadness and joy was glaringly obvious.
I barely know Afghanistan, but the scene that played out in front of me was almost too perfect a visual metaphor for the country’s current situation.
I can’t wait to get back and shoot some more, but tomorrow it’s back to Iraq where a whole host of inspiring works lies ahead…
Hope springs eternal