Photographer Michael Coyne On His Image Of An Iranian Rehab Center: 'A Symbol Of The Futility And Waste Of War'

© Michael Coyne, Rehabilitation Centre, Iran (1985)

By Michael Coyne

Photographer Michael Coyne

Over a period of eight years, I documented life in Iran at a time when the country was mostly closed to international media. I was there after the Islamic revolution when the religious leaders were at the height of their power, and during the Iran/Iraq war.

I travelled with a film crew and on one occasion was invited to visit a rehabilitation center for people wounded in the war with Iraq, to see injured men lying in bed or sitting nearby, their limbs swathed in bandages. Because everyone was focused on the film crew, I was able to wander away from the ward, unnoticed, until I came across a room with callipers and artificial limbs piled on the floor and leaning against the wall. On the wall above there was an elaborately framed painting of Khomeini and a verse in Persian, which I later learned was a poem by a Shiite mystic urging dedication to Allah.

I immediately realized what a powerful image this could be as a symbol of the futility and waste of war. To me, also, it showed what became of the many young men who at, Khomeini’s urging, ran across minefields to clear the way for the advancing Iranian army. It made me angry then, as it still does, to think that the Basij, as they were called, some of them as young as twelve, were persuaded to commit, as I saw it, suicide. Because I was shooting with Kodachrome 11 (ISO 64) in very low lighting, I used a tripod with a cable release but, due to nervousness, bungled the first shots. I then managed to take a number of frames before a medical person came in and angrily asked me to leave.

Later on, this was one of the 35 photographs published in National Geographic magazine as a photographic essay entitled "Iran Under the Ayatollah."

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

Presenting The 'War/Photography' Video Trailer

Our next exhibit, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath, debuts next month. The show, organized by The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will include over 150 images that present both the military and civilian point of view of war. Mark your calendars - WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY opens Saturday, March 23, 2013 Watch the video teaser for the exhibit above.

Carlos Orjuela Visits The Space

By now, Los Angelenos have seen the face of U.S. Marine Gysgt. Carlos “OJ” Orjuela all over the city. Louie Palu's powerful photo of Orjuela was part of our street banner campaign. The latter came in with his son for the final weekend of War/Photography. Read Palu's story behind the photograph here and our interview with Orjuela here.

Pages

Copyright © 2014. The Annenberg Space for Photography. All rights reserved.
Privacy & Accessibility Statement
Sitemap