February 26, 2012

Photo Prize Update: Afghan War As Groundhog Day Trauma Loop

What’s immediately striking about David Gilkey’s photo, named first place in the Portrait/Personality category of the White House News Photographer’s 2012 photos awards, is its similarity to Tim Hetherington’s World Press winning photo back in 2007.

Taken together, the status of the U.S. mission over this almost four year photographic span could be termed ” grippingly static.” Rather than offering any improvement, the message on its face is that the Afghan campaign continues to suck the life force out of America and its troops. To the extent notable photos can’t help but illustrate what’s in the headlines, Gilkey’s slightly pixillated photo is that much more powerful given the fire and firestorm currently raging in Kabul against the shaky U.S. presence.

(photo 1: David Gilkey/NPR caption:  Lance Cpl. Anthony Espinoza, Bravo Co. 1/5, wipes the salt and sweat out of his eyes which drips down out of his helmet at the end of a day long patrol out of Patrol Base Fires in Sangin District, Helmand province, Afghanistan on May 4, 2011. The 100 plus degree temperatures combined with the humidity of the flooded farm fields make walking and patrolling in the area a daily battle. photo 2: Tim Hetherington for Vanity Fair caption: A soldier of Second Platoon, Battle Company of the Second Battalion of the US 503rd Infantry Regiment sinks onto an embankment in the Restrepo bunker at the end of the day. The Korengal Valley was the epicenter of the US fight against militant Islam in Afghanistan and the scene of some of the deadliest combat in the region. 16-09-2007)

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Michael Shaw
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