Thursday, March 31, 2011

Four photojournalists' Afghanistan


The other day I found myself in San Francisco City Hall with time to kill. I remembered that my friend SFMike had written up an exhibit of photos from the Afghanistan war. Fortunately for me, the show is still on exhibit in the basement corridors. They will be up until May 13.

The four photographers, James Lee, Eros Hoagland, Teru Kuwayama, and Lynsey Addario, have all trekked with US, other NATO, and Afghan National Army troops. But these are not battle photos, but photos of life, even if life among armed forces. There's a lot of praying, some eating, and a surprising numbers of photos of troops sleeping. In a war zone, grabbing a nap must sometimes be a blessed escape. Many of the images are arresting; most broaden what we can know of that faraway place and those ever-s0-different people.

This photo by Teru Kuwayama especially grabbed me, reminding me of Greg Mortenson's framing story of the Kyrgyz horsemen who invited him to build a school in the Wakhan corridor.
Addario was recently captured, abused and finally released by Gaddafi's force in Libya along with three male New York Times journalists. She has responded to comments about their account of their ordeal in the Lens blog:

[They ask] “How dare a woman go to a war zone?” and “How could The New York Times let a woman go to the war zone?”

To me, that’s grossly offensive. This is my life, and I make my own decisions.

If a woman wants to be a war photographer, she should. It’s important. Women offer a different perspective. We have access to women on a different level than men have, just as male photographers have a different relationship with the men they’re covering.

In the Muslim world, most of my male colleagues can’t enter private homes. They can’t hang out with very conservative Muslim families. I have always been able to. It’s not easy to get the right to photograph in a house, but at least I have one foot in the door. I’ve always found it a great advantage, being a woman.

She goes on to describe receiving hospitality in war-torn lands as well as assistance from fixers and drivers, finding a grudging acceptance from male photojournalists and sharing hazards in the midst of the chaotic Libyan battlefield. It's all worth reading.

1 comment:

sfmike said...

On a simply aesthetic level, Addario's photographs strike me as amazingly good. They also have an honesty to them that's both personal and self-effacing. Glad you made it to the scary City Hall basement.

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