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December 1, 2007

Soldier-Photographer

I came across solider-photographer Jay Romano back in August when a member of Lightstalkers, the networking site for photojournalists, linked to his Flickr page.

On his second tour of duty in Iraq, Romano has admittedly not had a chance to extensively edit and organize.  But isn’t that what war, and Flickr (to a greater or lesser extent) are about?  I also thought — as a break from our typical one-picture-at-a-time approach at The BAG, it would be interesting to look at the occasional Flickr feed.

Jay currently has six image sets on his page.  The series titled OIF3 contains photos from Iraq taken between July 2005 and March 2007 from spots throughout Anbar and Babil Province.  (Here are a couple that stood out for me : 1, 2, 3.)  The series above, titled: "Current OIF… ", runs between May and August 2007.  It starts in Ninewa Province with the rest from Mosul or locations undisclosed. 

A consistent theme through Jay’s images are photos of IED explosions.  In a caption or comment, at one point, he says he doesn’t know why he is so adept at capturing these detonations.  In the Lightstalker thread, however, in discussing the parallels between his two roles, an explanation surfaces.  Ray writes:

When it comes to balancing the soldiering and photographing, the act of looking and seeing has helped both. I can only say this because of the results. In comparison with my peers, I can locate 300% more IEDs. Why? It’s because I am looking for images, not that I have a gift or am working with the insurgency as some of the guys tell me.

I’m interested in your take on the images either individually or collectively, plus I have a couple of questions. 

Because most of the photojournalism we’ve seen from Iraq has come from embedded photographers, how much do Romano’s photos further blur the line between an independent versus a sympathetic view of the war?

What I’m also wondering is, how much are we on the left impeded from empathizing with these soldiers out of "danger" of compromising our larger opposition to the war?  …And then, how much is that conflict a "set up," part of the genius of embedding and allowing soldier-photographers to do their thing?

If you’re interested in seeing captions, run your cursor over the photo and click the "i" button.  To close the caption, just click the "close" box to the right of the caption.  You can also skip back or ahead using the scroll arrows bottom right, and you can click through to the actual flickr page from the links just below the caption.

(images: ©Jonathan Romano.  2007.  Iraq.  via Flickr)

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