We are pleased to welcome Joel Preston Smith to our Photographer’s Showcase at NCN. These images from the early phase of the war in Iraq can be see as aides-memoire for a war already fading into oblivion, and as reminders that war ravages time–by filling it with terror, and creating vast stretches of boredom, and making lifetimes prisons, and giving all that happened the unreality of floating outside of ordinary experience. Let’s take a moment, then, to look back, as guided by this photographer.
Most of the images I took as a freelancer in Iraq in 2003 cover Iraqi social life, which I felt was overlooked (as it usually is) during the conflict. I hadn’t wanted to illustrate Iraqis as victims, exclusively, but it’s easy to get the impression from such images—that their lives are composed only of sorrow. The same might be said of U.S. troops, in that most images attempt to project them solely as heroes or villains, rather than as people living and working in extremely difficult circumstances.
An Al-Quds militiawoman pauses during an anti-American demonstration in Tikrit, Iraq. The military parade featured roughly 45,000 civilians in an exhibition of Iraqi resistance to U.S. forces. The annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) Militia parade honors the Feb. 8 birthday of Sadaam Hussein, who was born in a hamlet just outside Tikrit.
Physicians at Medicine City Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq, attempt to revive gunshot victim Ammar Shackar, 26. Shackar had been shot in the left tibia 10 days earlier, according to his physicians. He subsequently developed sepsis (bacteria in his bloodstream), and became edemic as his kidneys failed.
Ammar Shackar’s mother lies unconscious at Medicine City Hospital in Baghdad, Iraq. Physicians had just informed her that her son, 26, had just died in the emergency room.
Daour Mathoub, 12, at the height of fear, while watching the American movie Letters from a Killer on television at her family’s apartment in Baghdad, Iraq. Mathoub is transfixed by a scene in the film in which a red-headed woman, in a New Oreleans apartment, pursues Patrick Swayze with a knife.
A patient, who said he’d been stabbed by his uncle, waits for treatment while being supported on a gurney by friends at Ali Amouck hospital (also transliterated as Al-Yarmouk Hospital), Baghdad, Iraq.
A U.S. Army truck driver from Iowa swims in the Euphrates River, Ar Ramadi, Iraq. Sadaam Hussein’s captured Northern Palace lies in the distance.
Joel Preston Smith is the author of Night of a Thousand Stars and Other Portraits of Iraq (Nazraeli Press: 2006). He teaches photojournalism at Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Ore. His website is here. His book is available at Photo-Eye, here.