Photographers' Blog

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.

How did you get into photography?

Photography was my hobby. I was inspired by my father who was a photographer. I worked at the local newspaper al-Saa’a just after the war began in 2003. I moved to Reuters in the same year when a friend (photographer Ceerwan Aziz) told me that Reuters needed a photographer who had a camera and could work for a day, or a week, or for a long time.

How do you feel about the nine years of war and what have been the major changes in your daily life?

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.

Five years without Justin

By Jason Reed and Larry Downing

America’s military commitment in Afghanistan has been long by any count. Ten years of bloody war fathered by an angry country seeking revenge after it was blindsided in deadly attacks on September 11, 2001. Innocent souls vanished forever inside the flames that day in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania.

Since then thousands of combat GI’s from willing countries have answered their nation’s call to hunt down those thought responsible for that day who are still hiding along the dark footpaths snaking the dangerous countryside.

Every time a soldier, or Marine dies in combat, he, or she is quickly flown home to be buried by a grieving family.

The rebel march to Tripoli

By Bob Strong

The Libyan rebel march to Tripoli – from the mountains to the coast

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In late July we pulled up to a Libyan rebel checkpoint outside the mountain town of Nalut and I got my first look at the fighting force. One rebel had his helmet on backwards, a few of them were armed with only knives, and random gunfire filled the air as men test fired their new weapons. It felt like the rebels couldn’t defeat a boy scout troop, much less Gaddafi’s well equipped army. As usual, I was dead wrong.

The rebels advance from the west began in the small towns at the base of the Nafusa Mountains in late July. The day we arrived, July 28, rebels had pushed Gaddafi forces out of a series of villages and set their sights on Tiji, a strategic garrison town on a main road leading to Tripoli.

With no electricity in the nearby towns, the Reuters team of reporter Michael Georgy, myself and a driver based ourselves in a hotel across the border in Tunisia. This meant getting up at 6am every day, crossing the Libyan border, and driving 3 hours to the front lines. We would usually get back to the hotel around 9 or 10 at night, eat and sleep.

AUDIO SLIDESHOW: Two Decades, One Somalia

In the 20 years since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled, Somalia has faced hunger, flooding, fighting, suicide attacks, piracy and insurgency.

Prevailing violent conflict inside Somalia makes it difficult if not impossible for aid agencies to reach people.

AlertNet brings you special coverage of the country which has struggled without a strong central government ever since.

One last time in Afghanistan

One of the responsibilities of Reuters picture coverage in Washington, besides the White House, Capitol Hill and the State Department, is the Pentagon. As the top-level cabinet secretaries travel overseas, Reuters, along with other agencies The Associated Press, Agence France Press and Getty Images cover these trips on a rotational basis.

In the 4- ½ years serving as Secretary of Defense under two Presidents, Robert Gates’ made his 12th and final trip to Afghanistan this week, primarily to thank the troops for their service one last time. Fortunately for me, it was Reuters’ turn to embark on this historic journey. As we circled the earth clockwise via Hawaii and Singapore and eventually onto Brussels for a NATO Summit, Gates touched down in Kabul on June 4th and began three days of extensive travel around Afghanistan, via Blackhawk helicopter, C-17s and Osprey aircraft over the scorching desert in the south and mountainous east of the country.

As a Washington-based photographer more accustomed to mundane political assignments where making a great and memorable picture is akin to creating a “silk purse out of a sow’s ear”, I relish the chance to mix it up and cover the “real world” outside the Washington beltway. Yes, the Secretary of Defense trips are insanely long (11 days this time) and force you to work in some difficult environments, but I love them because you are given a little more access behind the scenes and are generally allowed almost as much freedom to move around as the Secretary’s own Pentagon photographer, the only other on the trip. In getting the best pictures, access is everything.

Surf therapy

Matthew Doyle grew up by the beach in Santa Monica, California, and with his slim physique and tattooed forearms, looks as if he’s been surfing his whole life.

But it took three tours of duty half a world away, many sleepless nights, and meeting a woman named Carly before the 26-year-old U.S. Army veteran braved the waves on a surfboard.

On a recent Saturday, I met Doyle and a group of 11 other young military veterans trying to overcome the horrors of war at Manhattan Beach, just south of Los Angeles, where occupational therapist Carly Rogers led them in a surf therapy class.

Poppy politics

It’s not hard to find a field of poppies in the village of Jelawar, north of Kandahar. Some are hidden discreetly behind mud walls but others have been brazenly planted within sight of the main road. During a recent patrol, I accompanied Afghan National Army Captain Imran (he uses one name) and a group of U.S. civil affairs soldiers on a tour of Jelawar’s back roads as they tried to assess the extent of this year’s opium production.

A large field of poppies grows on the north side of Jelawar village in Afghanistan's Arghandab Valley.   REUTERS/Bob Strong

The first field we came to was a couple of hundred meters across, filled with pink poppy flowers in full bloom. There were several men working the field and Imran asked them what they were doing. A farmer looked up from pulling weeds and said they were working on their onions. Indeed, in a poppy field the size of a football stadium there were a handful of green onion shoots pushing out of the soil. Not exactly the perfect cover, especially after the farmer admitted to planting the poppies in the first place.

A farmer who said he was tending to his onions works in the middle of a large field of poppies in Jelawar village in Afghanistan's Arghandab Valley.  REUTERS/Bob Strong

As we walked from one poppy field to the next, Imran was not amused. Finally, he gathered a group of farmers together to give them some bad news. “President Karzai has said it is illegal to grow opium poppies and that they must be destroyed. I give you 48 hours to cut down your plants or I will return with Afghan police and Afghan soldiers and we will force you to destroy these fields.”

Libya, Goran and the photo that went around the world

Chief Photographer Steve Crisp tells how this picture from Goran Tomasevic appeared Monday on front pages across the world.

Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

“Goran, as ever, was up at first light and on the road heading south from Benghazi after the first night of western bombing. The Reuters multimedia team came upon a convoy of troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi who had been attacked. Goran carefully took up a position near the smoldering vehicles when munitions exploded and so was able to capture a wide selection of dramatic and iconic pictures. This coverage was the climax to Goran’s outstanding front line reporting from the rebel advance, retreat and western intervention.

Vehicles belonging to forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi explode after an air strike by coalition forces, along a road between Benghazi and Ajdabiyah March 20, 2011. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

His images scored an amazing number of online and newspaper front pages worldwide, with this defining moment published as widely as another historic Reuters war picture, a 2003 photograph of a U.S. soldier standing beside the toppled statue of Saddam Hussein – a picture also shot by Goran Tomasevic.”

The Gulf War remembered

I bolted up from a deep sleep to the sound of my phone ringing in my hotel room in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

I looked at my clock it was 4am. I fumbled for the phone in the dark knocking it to the floor. After at least three more rings I finally got my hand on the receiver and answered. The calm voice at the other end was Photo Editor Herman Beals on our Washington, DC Picture Desk. “How ya doin?” he asked “I have been trying to get through to you for an hour”. I have no recollection of what my rebuttal was. “Andy, they are bombing Baghdad”, “Uhhh??” was my only answer. Crap!!, I had just slept through the first two hours of the Gulf War.

As I found out later I had not only slept through the uncountable number of fighter jets taking off nearby, that would literally vibrate my room but the loud wail of air raid sirens all around the hotel combined with the apparent pounding on my door of hotel staff. It was expected that once the bombing had commenced in Iraq there was high expectation Iraq would answer with a large Scud attack thus sending everybody to the air raid shelters minus yours truly Rip Van Winkle.