24 May 2009

Cute Pink Boxers in Korengal

Zachary Boyd of the US Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry, in
the Korengal Valley
. Photograph: David Guttenfelder/AP

It has been a busy couple of weeks. I've had to move house, navigate the end of semester, oversee the editorial transition at the journal I've run for the past four years, and plan my attempt to go to Oregon to collect my son August and bring him back here for a visit. I will explain the business about moving and the reasons why August lives across the continent some time since the dramatis personae - especially the bad guys - in both are the same. Not now though; no need to dwell on such things on a holiday. So while I had seen this image by David Guttenfelder, I had not had a chance to really think let alone write about it.

Daryl Lang offers a smart, concise commentary on the image - and, especially, its popular reception - here at the PDN blog. His conclusion?
"In other words, it's a white-washed version of a complicated war. This picture is like a Norman Rockwell painting. It assures us things are as they should be. This observation is not meant to diminish Guttenfelder's work; obviously this is not his only picture from Afghanistan. But it does reveal why war journalism is so tricky. It's easier to summon an audience when you show people what they want to see."
Indeed. What the photo brought to mind for me is a passage from Homage to Catalonia in which, as I vaguely recall, Orwell describes chancing upon a nationalist soldier squatting with his drawers down and, because of that posture, being unable to shoot him. The difference, of course, is that Orwell and his indisposed adversary were face-to-face - hence the perplexity - while Zach Boyd's enemies remain, as this commentary from The Guardian notes, invisible. Indeed.
PS: In a comment below, David Campbell linked to this post at his blog - it is, as is usual smart and on point.

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Blogger David Campbell said...

Hi Jim

While you were away I wrote about this image; see http://www.david-campbell.org/2009/05/22/embedded-in-afghanistan/

It prompted a good debate with one of the photographers I mentioned, Tim Hetherington -- see the comments at the bottom of the post.

27 May, 2009 10:58  
Blogger br said...

what i first noticed about this photo: (a)the soldiers look like well-feed children,(b) the pinks and blues, and the reduction of yellows seems to support the impression, (c) a cute photo from a very questionable war is obscene.

The Norman Rockwell reference is perfect.

thanks for posting it.

28 May, 2009 20:05  

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