Photographers' Blog

The day Saddam fell

By Goran Tomasevic

Why did I go to Iraq? Because it was a big story.

I was there in 2002 for the presidential referendum where Saddam was the only candidate.

I knew there would be a war. I’d begun my post in Jerusalem but I didn’t go there – instead I went to Iraq. As a Serbian national I didn’t need a visa to enter Iraq. I also had experience covering Kosovo and the Balkan war. I arrived at the end of January 2003, and spent three months there.

This was my first big conflict after covering the former Yugoslavia. For me, it was very important to prove myself on the international stage.

It was the day after the Americans fired on our office and killed Taras Protsyuk, who was a good friend of mine, injured Gulf bureau chief, Samia Nakhoul, along with other colleagues. (Watch Reuters Bearing Witness to learn more)

I woke up around 6am and started driving around. Americans had captured most of the city already. I went to see Samia in the hospital and then came back to our hotel, which was surrounded by Americans, to file some pictures. I was really out of myself after what had happened to Taras.

Gone, but never forgotten

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia

By Kevin Lamarque

From a distance, the graves at Arlington National Cemetery are all seemingly uniform, precise rows of white headstones as far as the eye can see. However, a visit to Section 60, burial site of those killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, shows how fresh the wounds of these wars are. Many of these graves are adorned with photos, trinkets, stones, messages, keepsakes and other mementos placed atop or around the headstone. These items help form a bond to the deceased, a reminder that they are sorely missed and will never be forgotten. For each headstone in Section 60, there is the painful story of a life that ended far too soon. It is also the story of those left behind who must bear this insufferable loss. These headstones help tell a small part of this story, a story of profound sadness.

Burnt under the sun

By Damir Sagolj

(WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

The bottom picture is of a dead man killed by who-knows-who and left alone in the desert. I shot this image almost ten years ago from atop a U.S. Marines tank speeding towards Baghdad.

It immediately got lost, the photo itself, amongst others illustrating what would be celebrated as the liberation of a country from a tyrant. Other images of fighting and those of U.S. soldiers doing this and that played well in the papers. Somewhere near Nassiriya, this man was left forgotten to rot under the desert sun — and on our hard drives.

Not long after, I realized that was probably my best shot from the short invasion from Kuwait to Baghdad. This was a simple but powerful picture of an unknown man killed by whomever and left alone among tank trails, surrounded by nothing but dust and the noise of war. Everyone was too busy with their personal wars at the moment, I suppose. People had to survive, to run away, while others had to win battles and justify their leader’s decisions. I had to take more pictures that seemed more important for the world of news that is always hungry for answers to those questions.

Iraq’s youngest photographer reflects

Qamar Hashim is an 8-year-old Iraqi photographer. He tours famous streets to picture Baghdadis with his single camera and is the youngest Iraqi photographer to win several local awards, according to the Iraqi Society Photographic (ISP).

Below, Qamar responds to a series of questions.

When did you take your first photograph and what did it show?

I do not remember exactly the first picture but I had been mimicking my father since I was 4 or 5 years-old and started to take pictures of the Tigris river, the gulls, birds, old houses and heritage places.

Why do you think photography is important?

Photography is very important. It documents life and pauses time. We can show the city, life and the people.

Iraq’s slide to nowhere

Iraqi photographer Thaier al-Sudani answers questions on the nine year war and the pull out of U.S. troops.

Do you remember the day the U.S. launched air strikes?

I remember that day well. As the U.S. military jets bombed Baghdad, I was on the roof watching. We all thought that Iraq would be away from the war and violence after ousting Saddam and that Iraq would be among the top countries in the Middle East, due to its natural resources.

Describe your life under Saddam’s regime?

Life was normal. I studied design at the Arts Academy in Baghdad. Life was much safer than it is now.

The future of Iraq

By Shannon Stapleton


When asked, “What do you see for the future of Iraq now that the United States military is leaving the country ?”, 12-year-old student Kharar Haider replied, “I don’t think we will have more problems and it is better than when Saddam was here. We have no heating or light in school. I don’t think that is going to get better.”

Upon arriving in Baghdad on Dec. 1st of 2011 for my first time in Iraq, the question that I couldn’t get out of my mind as we made our way through a maze of military checkpoints was “What will be the future of Iraq after we leave?” If security was this tense now, I could not imagine what was going to happen after the U.S. troops finally pulled out of this war-torn country.

Thoughts of a new sectarian war among the various factions involved in a power struggle over the government dominated my outlook on the future of Iraq. The threat of suicide bombings, mortar attacks or kidnappings for Iraq’s people created a sense of paranoia that I couldn’t possibly imagine living with on a daily basis. I was eventually going to be leaving the country on a military embed. The Iraqis who told me about their hopes for the future would stay behind.

A tribute to journalist and colleague Sabah al-Bazee

Reuters correspondent Peter Graff in Baghdad writes following the death of journalist Sabah al-Bazee:

For those of us who work in the Baghdad bureau, it is always a shock to look back through the collected photos of one of our Iraqi colleagues. We think we are used to those old scenes. But seen one after another, the images compiled over eight years of carnage by a single journalist like Sabah al-Bazee still have the power to freeze your blood.

A man sits on the rubble of a destroyed house after a U.S. air strike in the village of Samra near Tikrit, 150 km (95 miles) north of Baghdad June 25, 2008.  REUTERS/Sabah al-Bazee

There’s a photo that Sabah took showing the bodies of a family killed during a botched U.S. military raid on their home in 2005. Three small children wrapped in blankets, who look almost like they are sleeping, snuggled with their parents, their faces pale and lifeless in the dust.

Witness from the Hurt Locker

May4
Photo editor May Naji during an embed with U.S. troops in Iraq.

When I moved to Singapore, I thought I would escape the war and try to forget everything that reminded me of it.

IRAQ/SCHOOLBut watching “The Hurt Locker,” I flashed back to all the sad and terrifying memories of violence and atrocities during that time in Iraq. The movie was about an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, but it really highlighted what goes on in Iraq every day – what Iraqis and the U.S. military experience every day. I think that’s what made the movie so popular. People want to understand life in Iraq.

Even as an Iraqi who lived there and witnessed the war, it’s sometimes hard to describe — what happened, what we saw. The visions are in my mind, but it’s beyond the imagination of people who live in peaceful countries and never witness war. The movie’s most graphic images (planting explosives inside the body of an Iraqi boy; the civilian with a time-bomb strapped to his chest) were just some of the horrific things that happened in Iraq.

Those left behind: The legacy of Arlington’s Section 60

Larry Downing is a Reuters senior staff photographer assigned to the White House. He shares that duty with three other staff photographers. He has lived in Washington since 1977 and has been assigned to cover the White House, since 1978. President Barack Obama is the sixth president Larry has photographed.

“People sleep peacefully in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”  George Orwell

Veteran’s Day is a time to remember “All gave some….Some gave all.”

Before reaching the new gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery’s ‘Section 60’ it’s easy to recognize why a simple, quilted, patch of green grass and white stones buried alongside the quiet banks of the Potomac River troubles the heart.

Shoe fits

One of the unspoken duties concerning our blanket coverage of the President when he is in public is the “death watch”, which is, quite simply, being there “in case” something terrible should happen.  It is the reason the Associated Press photographs each and every take off and landing of Air Force One or Marine One, just “in case” a terrible mishap should occur during take-off or landing,  or somewhere in between. We don’t carry our blanket coverage to that extreme, but we certainly are with the “body” whenever he is in public.

Now here’s the thing. Our job is  really not unlike that of the Secret Service that protects “the body”. But, 99.99999 percent of the time nothing happens. So how do you stay constantly alert and at the ready in case something does happen. Well, the Secret Service certainly is. That is their sole purpose. But photographers? Well, we tend to walk about during a presidential event, looking for different angles, or simply taking a breather when we think we have exhausted the photo opportunities of the event. Often, we have our eyes deeply embedded in our laptops, filing photos as the President is still speaking. So, are we always as alert and fixed upon “the body” as the Secret Service is? Of course not.

So, imagine our surprise when a man hurls a pair of shoes at the President. I had taken a position side on, midway between the podiums and the back press riser. I had anticipated that would be a good position for the signing of documents that was due to occur immediately after the remarks from the podiums. The setting of the remarks was incredibly unremarkable for photo possibilities, so after shooting that, I had moved to prepare for the signing of documents hoping for better.