Interview: U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos “OJ” Orjuela

© Louie Palu; U.S. Marine Gysgt. Carlos “OJ” Orjuela, age 31, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from Project: Home Front (2008)

Last week, photographer Louie Palu's presented his story behind his image above, taken in Afghanistan in 2008 and featured in our WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit. Today we bring you an interview with the man in the photo, United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos “OJ” Orjuela.

ASP: What kind of emotions did you experience the first time you saw Louie's photograph?

Carlos Orjuela: I was ecstatic. I knew that Louie was a professional photographer, but I was floored that the picture came out so well with that much detail given the conditions in the field we were operating in.  

ASP: How do you feel when you look at this photo now?

Carlos Orjuela: Famous and honored that I could be part of this work.

ASP: How did the photo come about?

Carlos Orjuela: We had just traveled several hours from our combat outpost to a forward operating base on a road known for being mined. Louie spent many hours getting to know everyone in our unit over several weeks. Louie asked if I would mind if he took some pictures after the patrol, that it was important for history. It was right at the end of our mission in the area we had operated in for several months, it was 120 degrees and a sandstorm was about to hit the base. Louie lived amongst us 24/7 and it was very natural to have him around and taking photographs.

ASP: What kinds of things were you thinking about during the photoshoot?

Carlos Orjuela: That I should probably button up my chin strap.

ASP: What kind of reactions have you received from other people (family, friends, strangers) who have seen or recognized you in the photo?

Carlos Orjuela: I am very well known for playing pranks on people therefore no one I knew believed it was really me when they saw the photo. I would have to do an online search with my name to show my friends and colleagues Louie's pictures to prove it was really me. As of late, I have had many friends and co-workers calling me telling me that they saw my picture all over the Los Angeles area while the show is on at the Annenberg Space.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath will show at the Annenberg Space for Photography through June 2, 2013. Learn more about Louie Palu on his official website.

Eddie Adams Talks About His Famous Vietnam War Image

Eddie Adams's famous photograph of South Vietnam General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Nguyễn Văn Lémin Saigon is one of the over 170 images you'll see in WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY. Adams, who passed away in 2004 at the age of 71, won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography and a World Press Photo award for the powerful image. Watch the video above to hear what Adams hismelf had to say about the moment he captured the photograph.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY Exhibit Catalogue Wins Award

Congratulations to WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY curators Anne Wilkes Tucker, Will Michels and Natalie Zelt winners of the 2013 Kraszna-Krausz Foundation's Best Photography Book Award for WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath. The awards are the UK’s leading prizes for books published in the fields of photography and the moving image.

The other award announced by the Foundation is in The Best Moving Image Book ategory. The winner of that award is Hollywood Costume by Deborah Nadoolman Landis. For more information about the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation, click here.

The 600-page catalogue covers conflicts spanning two centuries and six continents. Pick up your own copy, autographed by Anne and Will along with featured photographers Carolyn Cole, Ashley Gilbertson, Edouard H.R. Glück and David Hume Kennerly when you visit the WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibition at the Photography Space now through June 2, 2013.

An Eye For Peace: By Janrose, The Woman In Marc Riboud's Photo

© Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos, Washington, DC, October 21, 1967

This guest blog post has been written by janrose, who was photographed by Marc Riboud in the famous image above.

Photographer Marc Riboud, who snapped the well-known photo of me holding up a flower in front of a National Guardsman during an anti-war protest in 1967, is a man of peace.  He was a member of the French Resistance movement that fought gallantly against the Nazi occupation during World War II.  No one but Marc could have perfectly captured this moment in my journey to understand "The War Machine.” 

I was a troubled 17-year-old who had butted up against “The Establishment” in many ways. I was passionate in my feeling that the war in Vietnam was wrong. For me at the time, it was proof perfect that the powers in Washington were corrupt and vile. All of the wrongs of the establishment and the horrors of that illegal war melded into the rhetorical monster, " The War Machine".  In my mind at the time, the soldiers were the "mongrels of death". 

I joined thousands of my comrades in peace in Washington, DC, marching from the Washington Monument and over the bridge to the Pentagon. I shouted, "Viva Che,”  (even though I had no idea at that time who or what a Che was!) only because it was what everyone around me was chanting. At one point, we marchers decided to break from the designated route. The soldiers knew this and lined up, forming a barricade to keep us in place. I confronted them, coming closer and closer, beseeching them to put down their guns and join us. I continued to shout, but as soon as I was close enough to really look into their eyes, my idea of “the war machine” melted away, and suddenly I realized that these soldiers were just young boys.  They could have been my brother, my date, my cousin....

Marc's camera captured my deep sadness as my realization bridged the gulf isolating and alienating me from those young men. The rhetorical facade melted away, reducing the monsters into mortals.

Precisely, at that moment, a simpatico resonated between me and those young soldiers. We were one.

If you look into my eyes in the photo, you will see this deep sadness, as I realized that they too were the victims of war.  

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath will show at the Annenberg Space for Photography through June 2, 2013.

Spotted At The Space: Nick Ut & Kim Phúc

We had a couple of very special visitors at the Photography Space this past weekend. Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer Nick Ut came to the WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit along with Kim Phúc, the little girl in his famous Vietnam War photo. The two viewed the photos and the film in the show. Above is a picture from their visit.

Phúc was only nine when the image was taken 41 years ago and now lives in Toronto. She described the event in an interview last year:

"Suddenly I saw fire around me and it burned my clothes. I was very scared and began to cry. I tried to run away from there...I ran and ran until I saw people in front of me. I felt very hot, thirsty and asked for help. They gave me water to drink and wet my body, and I lost consciousness."

Here's archival film footage of the moment when Ut took his photograph.

Spiritual Preparation for War

© Hayne Palmour IV / U-T San Diego

By Hayne Palmour IV

On the morning of March 16, 2003, at Camp Inchon, Kuwait, reporter Darrin Mortenson informed me that he had heard that there was going to be a baptism ceremony for Marines later in the day. That immediately sounded like something I'd want to photograph. With images of baptisms in a slow moving river somewhere in the south coming to mind, I tried to imagine what a Marine baptism in a Middle Eastern desert might look like.

After nearly a month of uncertainly in Kuwait City, Darrin and I finally managed to secure an embed spot with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment from Camp Pendleton. With so much competition for embed positions, that wasn't an easy task for a reporting team from the North County Times, a small to midsize daily newspaper covering north San Diego County. We had just arrived at the battalion's camp and had been reporting on the different things Marines were doing to prepare for the imminent war in Iraq.

These were things such as various types of training, writing letters home, packing away sea bags loaded with items they couldn't carry into battle, receiving their chemical protection garb and their caged pigeons. The purpose of the pigeons, one pigeon per company, was to warn of a chemical attack.

With all this preparation, a baptism ceremony, to get a Marine's spiritual house in order, was not surprising. We made the short walk from the tent we were staying in to where the ceremony was going to take place. There we saw sandbags stacked in the shape of a small jacuzzi. A tarp was stretched over it to shade the pool from the hot sun. A clear plastic sheet to hold water lined the inside of the sandbag structure. Next to the pool were several ten gallon water cans. A Navy chaplain's assistant was emptying the cans one by one until the pool was full. Meanwhile Marines started to arrive from all directions wearing nothing but their issued green shorts, t-shirts, and each carrying a small towel.  Before being dunked in the water by Navy Lt. Commander Tom Webber, some of the Marines would profess that they had strayed from the straight and narrow with their drinking and womanizing, but were resolute on their return to righteousness. After saying a few words, the chaplain would put one hand on the Marine's shaved head, the other on his back, and push the Marine forward until he was completely submerged. With a loud splash, the Marine was brought back to an upright position and was pronounced baptized by the chaplain. A chorus of "Oooohhhraaas!" and applause from those waiting their turn marked each Marine's return to air after being dunked. By the time dozens of Marines had gone through this baptismal process, the water in the pool, which started clean and clear, was murky with desert sand and nearly half gone.

While editing the photos afterward, the image of Webber patting Cpl. Albert Martinez on the head after dunking his body (tattooed with Christian symbols) rose above the rest. I didn't want to risk sending any other photos for that story to the newspaper. This was the shot. Four days later Darrin and I climbed aboard an amphibious assault vehicle filled with Marines and their weapons. Then we, along with the Marines, and the rest of the U.S. & British military forces involved in the invasion, crossed the border into Iraq.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath will show at the Annenberg Space for Photography through June 2, 2013. Click here to learn more about Hayne.

Spotted At The Space: Adrienne Alpert

Our friend Adrienne Alpert came by to experience the WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit with her son Michael. When she's not in the company of her adoring son, Emmy Award-winner Adrienne is in the field and on-air for KABC-TV. We're always happy to see her, whether on-air and in person. Thanks for visiting!

Ron Haviv's Photos Documented The Yugoslav Wars

© Ron Haviv/VII

By Ron Haviv

In 1991, I covered the beginning of the end of Yugoslavia. By 1992 with new fighting brewing in Bosnia between everyday citizens both Muslim and Serb: I arrived in the town of Bijeljina where the restaurant owner was fighting the candlestick maker and so on and so on. After a few days of fighting the feared Serbian paramilitary leader known as Arkan arrived with his unit, the Tigers. He told me he had arrived to liberate the town from Muslim fundamentalists. I had taken a portrait of him that he liked during the previous war, so he allowed me to accompany one of his paramilitary units as they fought through the town.

After a few hours we arrived at a mosque. The Serb militia quickly tore down the Islamic flag and replaced it with a Serbian one. They then took one man prisoner almost immediately. I heard some shouting when I was inside and went out to the front of the mosque.

Across the street an unarmed middle-aged couple were standing against the wall. The woman began screaming and some shots rang out. Her husband fell to the ground. The soldiers were yelling at me not to photograph anything. It was chaotic, dangerous and obvious there was nothing I could do to change things. I had been in a similar situation before, and at that time had promised myself that if I wasn't able to stop an execution, I needed to make sure there was a photograph to document what was happening. I slowly backed away from the soldiers and tried to blend into the background near a crashed truck on the other side of the street. I was able to photograph several frames as the wife tried to help her husband, who lay dying. As I moved back towards the soldiers, more shots rang out and the woman fell to the ground too. Moments later, another woman was brought out and she too was shot.

Things quieted down for a bit until another prisoner was brought to the soldiers. A young boy in his teens: he was confused and terrified. He managed to break away from the soldiers and to the back of the mosque to escape but was unable to jump over the wall. He had no choice but to return and when he did they shot him. I knew I needed an image with the paramilitaries and the victims in the same frame. That way, there would be no doubt of what had happened.

The soldiers decided to bring the remaining prisoner back to their temporary headquarters. As most of them left, I stood in the middle of street, framed the shot and as I did one of the soldiers came from my left, cigarette in hand; sunglasses on his head and moved towards the Bosnians as they lay dying on the sidewalk

After we had arrived at the headquarters, I needed Arkan’s permission to leave. I waited along with a Serbian colleague who had been with another unit. I heard a great crash and looked up to see the first prisoner of that day coming out of a second story window. He crashed at my feet. Miraculously he survived the fall but was quickly beaten by the soldiers, doused with water and brought back into the house.

Arkan arrived and immediately asked for my film. I had managed to hide some of the film and than proceeded to argue with him for the rest. He said he would process the film and give me back what he liked. I said the labs were terrible and I would process the film and let him edit. In the end, I lost the argument but managed to keep my film.

The images were published all over the world but to little reaction. The war began officially the following week, killing thousands and creating millions of refugees. In the end I spent more than five years on the ground during the ten years of wars that dissolved the country known as Yugoslavia.

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath will show at the Annenberg Space for Photography through June 2, 2013. Learn more about Ron Haviv and his work on his official website.