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things 17-18
spring 2004
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Shooting images
Mission Accomplished?
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Limited Language
Colin Davies and Monika Parrinder

Shooting images
Photographs from the war in Iraq [click for text]



1. A photograph of a mural of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, used to ‘advertise’ the article ‘Defying Saddam: how I became the Baghdad Blogger’ by Salam Pax. From the cover of The Guardian G2, 9 September 2003

2 Pre-packaged analysis: President Bush declares victory in Iraq in a photo-shoot for the world’s press on 2 May 2003, against the set design of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln and a banner stating ‘Mission Accomplished’. Robert Byrd, Democratic senator for West Virginia called it ‘an advertising backdrop’. The event took place in the Pacific, just off San Diego, and the event was delayed as the carrier ship had to turn round so that the shoreline would not show up in film footage. Having flown in on a navy Viking Jet warplane in full combat gear, Bush spent six hours on board the ship and, here, is photographed in a suit - it is, it seems, business as usual. Time magazine, 26 May 2003

3. A ‘knowing’ twist to a traditional photographic representation of childhood in war: Sufian Abd al-Ghani. The Guardian G2 cover, 15 August 2003

4. It only leads if it doesn’t bleed: this photograph of a banner from a demonstration in Tehran records anti-American sentiment in Iran. Through the juxtaposition of the relative sizes of the small child compared to the big bomb,it also reflects the British liberal press’s own anti-war stance -with the child’s back to the camera, the photograph certainly prioritises this over any reportage of the child’s experience. In both cases, the photograph allows the newspaper to address the issue without the need to show bloody and upsetting evidence of any children killed. From ‘Feeding the Arab furies’ in The Sunday Times, 30 March 2003

5. Images of images: a framed portrait of Saddam Hussein - against the odds still on the wall, clean and pristine - amid the otherwise smoke-stained remnants of the gutted Ministry of Defence in Baghdad. From ‘Afterburn’, The Guardian Weekend, 24 May 2003

6. The visual equivalent of the soundbite: the photograph titled ‘New Arrivals’ (above) records the US Army’s 3rd Infantry Division looking for resistance from Iraqi fighters as they make their way into the main terminal of Saddam International Airport. Later the airport was renamed Baghdad International. From ‘Destination: Baghdad’, Time magazine, 14 April 2003

7. Layers of iconography: this cropped-in section of a mural of Saddam Hussein (right), already corroded with age, from the streets of Baghdad was then photographed to show the pockmarks of the bullets - and by default the military progression - of US marines finally advancing on the city. A much needed piece of ‘proof’ for a Western readership who had expected Baghdad to have been taken -and so the war to have been over- much more quickly. From ‘The deadly choice facing Baghdad’, The Observer, 6 April 2003

8. A move from direct representation to the traces of the everyday: a scene of impromptu market stalls which have sprung up amongst cars and burning rubbish - rubbish which blows from the open sewers, between the stalls and cars. At the edge of the photo there is a defaced road sign indicating ‘cross here’. This is a sign which no longer has any meaning in the ruined city , but it serves to remind us of the routinely enforced actions and boundaries - both real and ideological - of the everyday life which is yet another casualty of the war. From ‘Baghdad: the true picture’, The Independent, 28 May 2003.

9. Uncertain narratives: at first this photograph appears to tell a typical tale of everyday life under US occupation - for the Iraqi men eating at the table of an outside café in Baghdad are surrounded on the street by American soldiers and on the table by cans of fizzy drink. One of these cans, at first glance looks like Seven Up. Looking closer it, in fact, reads Cheer Up. From ‘A latté – and a rifle to go’, The Observer Review, 8 June 2003

10. A logo for our time? The section of the Saddam Mural, used in The Observer, 6 April 2003, is re-used as the cover of The Baghdad Blogger by Salam Pax (Guardian Books, 2003). This time, any traces of the wall have been removed with digital retouching technology to create an image with one succinct message – and a few extra bullet holes have been added


things 17-18, Spring 2004


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