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January 2, 2006

The Boys From Brazil, And Other Fallujah Stories

Falloujah-Soldiers

(l to r: Soldiers Mesquita, de Carvalho and Barbosa)

What’s unusual about this photo thread at Crisis Pictures (view series HERE) is the "day in a life" quality to it.

Although photographer Mauricio Lima’s first 13 shots are from December 20th, the next 12 from December 19th, and the last 4 from December 18th, it still reads like a continuous timeline beginning before dawn and stretching into the late afternoon.

The fact we are introduced to three Brazilian born marines at the outset (Lance Corporal Daniel Moreira de Carvalho, Corporal Felipe Carvalho Barbosa and then Lance Corporal Felipe Santos Mesquita) only enhances the feeling of a narrative, with these three soldiers as the protagonists.  (Given this sense, it is somewhat jarring that our three heros suddenly disappear after the twelfth image and the soldiers we expect to know become anonymous.  I’m sure the cause is random, although it seems to happen just before the scenes in the city become more tense.)

Given that there are 29 different images here, Fallujah has been of particular interest, and images from there have been scarce, this collection represents a literal trove of visual information.  I’ll give you just a few of the impressions I had:

>> I see boys and I see old men, but I don’t really see young adult men.

Soldiers-Children

>> This series makes me realize how typical (and easy?) it is for
news photographers in Iraq to photograph children without adults.

>>Of the pictures I’ve previously seen of mothers and
children, most tend to reflect a tone of acquiescence.  Perhaps its
because the photographer and the troops are literally in these people’s
back yards, but #17 and #19 (mothers walking by soldiers with children;
children entering courtyard) reveal a great deal of expression (cold
suspicion, primarily) on the part of the women.

Inspection-Entrance

>> As you probably know, I’ve been interested in these
images of home raids since the war began.  I wonder why photographers
have such a tendency to shoot them, and what the ethics are in allowing
the photographer into the house with the soldiers.  I also wonder how
much the presence of the photographer tends to either mitigate or
exacerbate the experience for the resident.

What’s unique about the fifth picture (Iraqi man in bedroom
locating identification) is that we’ve already become acquainted with
Lance Corporal de Carvalho.  Because the Iraqi man is occupied, what
the photographer, Mr. Lima, has created is a rare posed portrait in the
midst of a raid.  What is Mr. de Carvalho thinking standing there with
that enormous gun?  How much does he form a youthful bookend with the
young boy hanging on the wall?  Why does it not seem unusual that these
suitcases comprise such a prominent feature?

Fallujah-Bench

>> This perception might not be accurate, but it seems
there is a well-worn path these soldiers follow into, through and out
of town.  Is the route marked off (in early shots, across field) to
guard against stepping on an explosive device?  When I see the soldiers
cooped up at the beginning and fencing themselves in at the end, then I
see how the Iraqis are sealed in, it seems the sense of containment
must be mind numbing to everyone involved.

>> Wishful thinking, perhaps, but the colorful vegetable stand seems to spell hope.


(image 1 – 4: Mauricio Lima/AFP/Getty.  December 20, 19, 19 and 18, 2005;   Fallujah, Iraq.  crisispictures.org.)

  • http://www.elemental-astrology.com/blog StellarLogic

    “Of the pictures I’ve previously seen of mothers and children, most tend to reflect a tone of acquiescence.”
    For some reason, this brings to mind the scene of a frightened Signourney Weaver in Gorrilla’s in the Mist, when she is being told to stay down, to display submissiveness. My guess is that they are trying to be as invisible as possible – to the photographer, who of course is in the picture, though not “in” it.

  • marysz

    “I see boys and I see old men, but I don’t really see young adult men.”
    Unlike women, children and older men, young men have the mobility to get “out of the picture” when they see approaching troops. And as for the pictures of Iraqi children without adults, how do we know that adults haven’t been cropped out of the picture? I can’t imagine children being allowed to roam unsupervised among American soldiers. Photographs of an occupying force with unaccompanied children have obvious propaganda value and are more effective if the photographer simply eliminates the accompanying adults by either cutting them out of an existing photograph or by not including them in the first place.

  • ummabdulla

    The picture of the women carrying their children reminds me of so many similar pictures I’ve seen of Palestinian women walking by Israeli soldiers. I think they’re trying to go about their business and ignore the soldier, and to keep some dignity in the situation. Obviously I’m just speculating, but they look a little dressed up, maybe for a party or something.
    As for the suitcases, there might be a practical reason for that. My bedroom also has suitcases sitting on top of wardrobes – because the houses in this region don’t have closets!

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