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October 3, 2007

More WTF: “Reported Progress” Edition



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I wanted to bring you a couple more images from Ashley Gilbertson’s Whisky Tango Foxtrot.

With the passage of time, we become more brutally capable of differentiating “progress” from “reported progress.”  As well, these two shots expose what Iraq became after 43 got his hands on it — which was, and remains, a set.

One way to get underneath a massive photo op, a sick reality show, is to film the filming or photograph the photographing of it.  Ashley, in his curiosity (and evolving disgust), knew well to pull back.  (It also occurs to me that all good war photographers understand their ultimate client is posterity.)

Image 1 makes me think of Joseph Heller and Catch-22.  In its pathetic simplicity (love the water bottle!), it implies that the Donald show was the cheapest, most make-shift, anybody-can-do-it kind of affair.  And oh, the fantasy life of the Iraqi power station!

As Ashley summarizes:

Bill Roberts, a civilian public affairs officer for the United States Army Corps of Engineers, delivers remarks at the Qudas power plant.  The military called in the press to celebrate the opening of the plant and claimed it would return much of Iraq’s power to the electrical grid.  In fact, the plant was not yet finished because of a lack of spare parts.

And of course, who can forget those inspired national elections and the creative way in which Bush/Rove, playing form-over-substance once again, creatively gave us the finger.

In my introductory post to his book, I don’t believe I mentioned Ashley’s fresh and completely honest style of exposition.  I have to share his caption for image 2:

Wire photographers pose a soldier to photograph his ink-stained finger, signifying that he had voted in the December 2005 national elections.  The habitual practice of setting up pictures annoyed me, but when I saw a photographer climb a high post and direct hundreds of soldiers into a more dynamic composition, I was shocked.

“I was shocked.”  I love it.

BAG’s previous WTF post herePurchase WTF here.  WTF Central right here.

(Images from “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War”.  © Ashley Gilbertson. Used by permission.)

About the Photographer

Ashley Gilbertson

Ashley Gilbertson is a photographer with the VII photo agency, and a principal at Shell Shock Pictures. Gilbertson's photographs from Iraq where he worked from 2002 until 2008, gained him recognition from the Overseas Press Club who awarded Gilbertson the prestigious Robert Capa Gold Medal. His first book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, was released in 2007. Since then, Gilbertson has been examining veterans issues including Post Traumatic Stress and suicide for Time Magazine, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and The Times. In 2007, he began working on Bedrooms Of The Fallen, a collection of photographs depicting the intact bedrooms of service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. That series was published by The New York Times Magazine, and went on to win the documentary photography National Magazine Award. It will be published in book form in 2012. He lives with his wife and child in New York City. See more of Ashley's work for BagNews here.

  • Gahso

    “Well, I’m standing here in front of these impressive electrical power thingy’s to tell you how these impressive infrastructure improvements will improve the Iraqi’s daily lives… once they’ve been uh, once they’ve been repaired, which will be another very impressive achievement.”
    Hollow “news”. Fakery. Trickery. Moving lips. Purple fingers. Propaganda unlimited.
    Sometimes I have to spend time in the garden after seeing so much unfounded BS. I wonder how future generations will force the media to get back to reality.

  • Cactus

    Suppose they gave a press conference…..and no one came.

  • jtfromBC

    “It was so moving for the president and me to watch people come out with purple fingers”-Laura Bush
    Whats Lady Laura *moving* this week ?
    I wonder if these guys are still alive ?
    More purple finger:
    In American Sign Language (ASL), the raised right finger means the letter D. So the Iraq election was a D-Day of sorts, celebrated with raised purple and blue inked fingers for freedom and Democracy.
    …psst interested in a celebratory baseball cap, tote bag or dogie Democracy T-shirt, check us first for great prices.

  • MonsieurGonzo

    ref : “One way to get underneath a… photo op… is to… photograph the photographing of it.
    Cactus : “Suppose they gave a press conference…..and no one came?
    you kinda blew me away there, Cactus ~ because all of a sudden i found myself wondering :
    who is this (these images = the photograph, and the photograph of the photographing) for?
    …the presumed ‘two sides’ of the American faux news FRAME? ie., you say TOE-MAY-TOW and i say TAH-MAH-TUH? What if, as BAGman suggests, we were to “pull back” the eye and photograph the intended viewer(s) : those receivers on the other end; and, and…
    …what if ~ as Cactus suggests, no one was watching? The War? what War, Ken Burns’ War?
    Did you see ‘Mad Men’, man? it’s great!
    what a delicious dilemma! (i love self-reference :) WHO IS THE NARRATOR ?
    is the narrator The Guy holding his purple finger up, recounting how he and others were counted, “Just Like Me!” sometime, somewhere off-stage? just like, like… Shakespeare?
    or, is the narrator The Guy holding his camera back, telling on how The Guy holding his purple finger up is “posing,” (where posing = BAD, says TheBAG) for the photographer of the {gulp!} narrateur poseur?
    YouTube => Pink Floyd, The [fourth] Wall : is there anybody out there?
    The Americans aren’t : i mean, who won the game? where’s the missing white woman? how do you spell RELIEF? what’s on channel 56? well, then ~ WTF are we doing here?

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