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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

A Girl and Her Dove

©Alexandra Avakian/Contact Press Images. This image is from the documentary film The War Photographers which accompanies the photography exhibit WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY.

By Alexandra Avakian

Fatimah and I met in the summer of 1994 while I was living in Gaza (Sept 1993-Dec 1995) and she was 15 years old.

She was one of seven siblings all sleeping in one room of a typical slapdash refugee house with a roof of unattached corrugated iron. It was in Shati Camp, about a mile from where I was living. Shati, (also known as Beach Camp) was at that time the most overpopulated spot on earth, with a staggering 100,000 people to a square kilometer.

When Fatimah took me upstairs to photograph her with her doves, I was struck by the symbolism the scene revealed, at a time where there was a peace agreement in place between Palestinians and Israelis (The Oslo Accords), but peace was already fraying. The swath of Shati Camp and its living conditions behind her, all the way down to the sea, provide Fatimah's context.

This photo was originally a "reject," meaning that the magazine I shot it for left it in a reject box without publishing it. However, as with many photos in my book, Windows of the Soul: My Journeys In The Muslim World (published by National Geographic Books), I held on to the photo because I believed in it, even though it was a "reject." Indeed when National Geographic magazine published my Gaza story in July 1996, "Fatimah and Her Dove" was the lead photo. The photo inspired many people and continues to be widely published and exhibited, including prominent presence in the original documentary film accompanying The Annenberg Space For Photography's version of the WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY photography exhibit.

Fatimah is everywhere and yet so hard to find: I wanted to learn how she was, hear the story of her life, photograph her again, and to give her my book in which she appears prominently. Some Gaza journalist friends had tried to look for her in the past and I asked them if they could look for her once again. None of them could find her, including the friend who initially introduced me to Fatimah.

After National Geographic Traveler sent me to photograph a story about Jerusalem for a 2012 issue, I took a few days in Gaza to try to find Fatimah.

Things are very different in Gaza now. There is basically one block that has relatively secure hotels. Where Gaza was run by the Israelis and then the Palestinian Authority, now it is under the control of Hamas.

Shati Camp had changed too, since 1994, but we searched for Fatimah methodically, alley by alley, stepping over open sewers and being swamped by delighted children. The locals helped us analyze the photo for clues, for landmarks.

Finally my driver, who was trained in security by the United Nations, told me I had to stop immediately. There was too much risk now of being snapped up by radical Salafists or others operating in Shati Camp. He said an arm could reach out in some alley and drag me into a room and nobody would ever find me. We left. But I will go back and find her next time, and soon.

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

Photos From The War/Photography Opening Gala

Last night was the opening party for our 11th exhibit, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY. The show opens to the public on Saturday, March 23, 2013.

As you might expect, The show is very powerful and quite moving. It is a difficult yet very important subject matter.

It was also a great opportunity to see photographers whose images are featured in the exhibit get together with photographers from our past shows. Seen here are Barbara Davidson (2010 Pictures of the Year), Kirk McKoy (Los Angeles) and Nick Ut (WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY).

Two Pulitzer Prize winners whose work is in WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: David Hume Kennerly and Nick Ut.

Here is Beauty Culture featured photographer Lauren Greenfield with (and another Pulitzer Prize winner!) Barbara Davidson.

 Also in the crowd was actor and SHFT co-founder Adrian Grenier.

Around halfway through the event, attendees gathered in the Digital Gallery of the Space to view the original short documentary film. At the conlusion of the film, there were more than a few guests who were moved to tears.

Here's a shot of some of the photographers whose work is in WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: (From left to right) Carolyn Cole, Ashley Gilbertson, Nick Ut, Luis Sinco, Hayne Palmour IV and Edouard H.R. Glück.

The show opens to the public tomorrow, March 23 and runs through June 2, 2013.

Photos by Unique Nicole for the Space

Read Powerful Comments From Visitors Of WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY

The visitor cards at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

During its original showing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath offered a place for visitors to share their reflections and impressions about their experience at the exhibit. Guests used poppy flower-tagged index cards to write down these thoughts.

Curator Anne Wilkes Tucker passed along several inscriptions on comments cards and other forms from visitors who attended the Houston run. Here are just some of the many powerful things visitors wrote down and pinned up on a wall at the MFAH.

“I took a large group of students down to see the War exhibition and they were really moved and changed by what they saw.  It was way different from the movies and video games that they are used to.  One of the students even asked me ‘What makes these look so real?’”

“When I see an exhibit like this I am always torn between an appreciation for the photography or an spiritual response to the subject matter. So much beautiful photography so much suffering. Both are appropriate and this exhibit certainly brings both to the front.”

“Now I've seen a collection that has internal resonance and life greater than its parts. Its parts feed back on each other and create new insights and feeling.”

“Thank you for WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY. I had been anticipating the exhibit for months, and it surpassed any expectations I had --- which were tentative anyway. What is an American teenager who has lived all her life here to “expect” of war?

“The image that grasped my attention most was the picture [by Ziv Koren] that is demonstrated from the shooters point of view. It allowed me to consider the contrast in perception of the shooters and the victim.”

“My pursuits in the arts have always been musical because I deemed the visual arts not powerful enough to move me, not emotional enough to inspire. The photography of the exhibit moved and inspired me. In short, thank you for proving me wrong and opening up a world of possibilities.”

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY's run at the Annenberg Space for Photography will also include a place for visitors to share their thoughts after viewing the exhibit. The show opens at the Space on Saturday, March 23, 2013.

'Who Shot Rock & Roll: The Film Goes To Tribeca

We're very excited and proud to announce that The Annenberg Space for Photography’s original exhibition documentary, WHO SHOT ROCK & ROLL: The Film, has been selected as an official entry in the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival. The short film will be in the category of "Shorts in Competition: Documentary." You may recall the film was part of last summer's record-breaking show, WHO SHOT ROCK & ROLL and features photographs, interviews and behind the scenes footage with acclaimed photographers Ed Colver, Henry Diltz, Jill Furmanovsky, Lynn Goldsmith, Bob Gruen, Norman Seeff, Mark Seliger and Guy Webster. as well as musicians Henry Rollins, Debbie Harry, Noel Gallagher and several others.

WHO SHOT ROCK & ROLL: THE FILM will screen for the public over several days at the Tribeca Film Festival.

For more information about tickets for press or the general public click here.

Public Screening Schedule    Date       Time     Venue
Premiere Screening 4/20/2013 12:00 PM         AV71
2nd Screening 4/23/2013 9:30 PM         CCC9
3rd Screening 4/26/2013 7:00 PM           CCC5
4th Screening 4/28/2013 5:00 PM           TC2
       
Press & Industry Screening Schedule    Date Time    Venue
Press Screening 4/23/2013 10:30 AM     CCC9

Screening Venues

Chelsea Clearview Cinemas (CCC5 & 9)
260 West 23rd Street
(between 7th and 8th Avenues)
New York, NY 10011

AMC Village 7 (AV7-1)

66 Third Avenue @ 11th Street
New York, NY 10003

Tribeca Cinemas (TC2)
54 Varick Street
(Below Canal Street, at Laight Street)
New York, NY 10013

Last year, our short film Beauty Culture screened at Tribeca.

Watch the trailer for WHO SHOT ROCK & ROLL: The FIlm here.

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