Louie Palu: Behind The Photograph

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

By Louie Palu

Louie Palu, Kandahar, Afghanistan in 2010

In the summer of 2008, I spent several months covering frontline fighting around the volatile districts west of the city of Kandahar in Afghanistan. By August I was preparing to move from an area under Canadian Army command in Kandahar to one in neighbouring Helmand Province where the United States Marines had been fighting. When I arrived at the Marine’s headquarters the public affairs officer asked me what I wanted to do. I asked her to send me to the combat outpost located in the worst area with the most austere conditions. I was told to meet a Marine at a tent on the flight path at Kandahar Airfield around midnight and they would take me on a C-130 military aircraft, then a helicopter followed by a heavily armed convoy (a journey totaling several days) and finally arriving in Garmsir District at Forward Operating Base (FOB) Apache North. As expected from my 2+ years covering the war, it was 120 degrees Farenheit everyday, 4-6 patrols per day, no running water or toilet and sand fleas biting me all night.

At 31, U.S. Marine Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Orjuela was one of the oldest Marine’s in the unit at the FOB. Most of the Marines in the unit were just 21-years-old. The conditions were so rough there that for me what said the most about this place was the faces of these young men. Everyday I spent several hours talking to each Marine and getting to know them, sometimes it took several days to build a connection. When we returned to the FOB at the end of each patrol I took a Marine into an empty bunker where there was natural light and took some portraits of them for about 5-10 minutes. Carlos was the very first Marine I photographed for this body of work.

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.

Sal Veder On His Pulitzer Prize-Winning Photograph

Want to know the story behind how Pulitzer Prize winner Sal Veder took his famous powerful shot, Burst of Joy, back in 1973? Watch an interview of Veder talk about the moment he snapped the photo, which depicts POW United States Air Force Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm being reunited with his family at Travis Air Force Base in California.

See this photo as part of the WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit at the Annenberg Space for Photography - on view now through June, 2, 2013.

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.

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.

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.

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