April 5, 2007

Since November (#5): The Look Of Lethality

Haditha Wuterich0611

Haditha Delacruz0611  Haditha Sharratt0611  Haditha Tatum0611

(click for full size)

What does a bad soldier look like?  And, what are the limits of reading into a photo?

Last December, in the holiday stretch, I became interested in photographer Lucian Read’s 2005 World Press Photo winning portraits of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.  Without investigating too deeply, I actually used one of the images as the visual center piece of a post at Huffington about the approaching milestone of the 3,000th U.S. military death in Iraq.

Not having done my homework, the first commenter observed that the soldier’s unit, Kilo company, was the outfit involved in the Haditha massacre.  Not only that, but a day or two later, four soldiers from the company (including unit leader, Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich – top above) were indicted for murder.  (Although I didn’t see it, Wuterich was on 60 Minutes about two weeks ago where he simultaneously defended and apologized for the rampage.)

The four indicted soldiers are among this selection of 13 portraits from Mr. Read’s original portrait series of the entire company.

In my mind, these images speaks of the limits of extracting character information from a photo — at least from total strangers.  On one hand, knowing Wuterich , De La Cruz, Sharratt and Tatum have been charged with murder, there are all kinds of things about these portrayals and expressions that might seem like clues to lethality.  At the same time, swap these photos with almost any of the other portraits from the company, and you could probably identify just as much "evidence."

Lucian Read website here.

This eight day series, titled "Since November," looks at images that have caught The BAG’s
attention over the past four months. Many are inspired by the change in
political landscape following the Democratic Congressional victory
in November. In this stretch, I am taking some time off, leaving the
site — and the conversation — in your hands.

(images: Lucian Read.  Hit and Haditha, Iraq. September/October 2005. via Vanity Fair.  article: Rules of Engagement.)

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