Of all the World Press Photo award winners announced Friday, the picture that seems to be generating the most word-of-mouth is one by Eugene Richards. Winner of the Contemporary issues category, the photo of the severely injured Sgt. José Pequeño and his mother is part of a series of stories on Iraq veterans. Below, we've republished the post we originally ran on June 28, 2008.
"War all comes down to these little tiny stories about people's lives that will never be the same."
— Eugene Richards
Looking back, I'm certain the depiction of trauma and loss suffered by Iraq veterans, as documented by so many fine photographers, will be recognized as playing a critical role in galvanizing the American public against an otherwise fundamentally sanitized war.
At BAGnewsNotes, I've looked at many difficult images over the past few years, including Todd Heisler's essay, "Final Salute"; "Nina Berman's "Marine Wedding" photograph of Ty Ziegel and Renee Kline — since divorced; Andrew Lichtenstein's photo of a funeral rehearsal in Modesto; and the haunting image by Barry Gutierrez just last week of Sgt. Ryan John Baum with his daughter, Leia, on his chest.
The photo above was taken by Eugene Richards as part of a series he is developing with The Nation Institute. Sgt. José Pequeño suffered a devastating brain injury from a grenade tossed into his Humvee in March 2006.
In his mother's arms, I hardly recall a more visceral sensation of the senselessness of the Iraq campaign. Given the angle, Pequeno's brain injury draws an unavoidable analogy between war and the capacity for thought. Ultimately, there is no rationalizing or comparing one devastating form of injury with another. In Sgt. Pequeno's case, however, the war has literally caused him to lose his mind.
War Is Personal: Sgt. José Pequeño (thenation.com)
Eugene Richards On "War is Personal" (Photo District News)
Jose Pequeno (Caring Bridge)
A New Home for Chief Pequeno (4/60 New Hampshire Public Radio)
(h/t: John. image: Eugene Richards)