June 9, 2005

As Simple As That


As much as I’ve read about and seen images of car bombs and suicide attacks, I realize it’s actually next-to-impossible for me to relate to such a thing. 

On the other hand, the destruction of an awning at a roadside cafe?  In that case, I more than understand the importance of a little shade and a few minutes of repose in the way stations we maintain along our various routes.  If you’re talking about disturbing an awning in such a place; to tear this fabric; to alter this constancy–.   Well, that is a violence I can feel.

(And that’s before saying anything about the mothers and the babies.) 

If you’ve been following the BAG this week, you’re now more than aware of the comment thread running on my post (Punching Up The Orangelink) which has morphed into a combination seminar and Q. and A. with the photographer, Alan Chin. 

Alan has joined us from Baghdad where — as an embed — he was involved
this past week in Operation Lightening, a joint U.S./Iraqi operation
seeking out insurgents in the town of Mahmudiya. He took the shot in
that post, and he also took this late April one above (which is
incredibly striking, and which I cropped from the full version here.)
I’m not sure how common it is for a person to write as clearly, vividly
and emotionally as he takes pictures. This seems to be true in Alan’s
case, however, and you will understand what I mean if you examine his
Kosovo War diary (link).

If anything, this discussion we’ve been having about the Mahmudiya photo on the "Orange"
post points up to me just how fundamentally out of touch we are with
the situation in Iraq, and just how cumbersome it is for the
journalists there — as talented as they are — to deliver a bigger

Part of the problem — I now better understand — involves the
constraints of "old journalism." It seems like it’s just not enough
anymore to read a static news report or see a single image and be
satisfied with that. Just like I do, more and more of us see a news
photo and the next thing we know, we find ourselves fishing through YahooNews in order to locate the pictures that immediately preceded and followed it so that we can piece together for ourselves
more of what was going on. At the same time, we become compelled to
find voices — such as those of the brilliantly sensitive 17 year old
Najma, from Mosul (link) — who can illustrate for us what is happening beyond "the filter" (in the form of the government, the military or
the media). It is for this reason that the direct pipeline to Alan is
so powerful, so satisfying, so interesting, and ultimately — such a

We have a few questions.  He has a few minutes.  Really, it can be as simple as that.

(image: Alan Chin.  April 30, 2005 in Iraq.  From: http://www.lightstalkers.org/alanschin)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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