Over on Gizmodo (here) Teru has practical advise for photographers headed into the war zone:

The daily mechanics of photographing in a “war zone” don’t have much to do with photography—mostly it’s about getting from point A to point B without getting your head cut off, then finding a signal and an outlet.

For what it’s worth, here’s some advice for first timers heading out to the badlands.

Wear Your Seat Belt… it’s the traffic that’s most likely to kill you.
Learn How To Say “Hello” and “Thank You” and To Count To Ten
Stop Looking For the “Front Line”—It’s a Mirage..”battlefield” has been replaced by the “battlespace,”
Equip Yourself With the Right Gear… Avoid the faux-commando stuff …Bring plastic (not your credit cards)… Pack your go bag – AKA, your grab bag, jump bag, snatch bag, bug-out bag, etc.
Embedding Has Both Perks and Consequences… You can spend an entire deployment embedded with the US Marines in Diyala or Helmand, but don’t fool yourself that you know anything about Iraq or Afghanistan—what you’ve seen is the inside of an armored bubble.
Get In Shape Before Deploying… I’m hauling a backpack that’s more than 50% of my body weight.
Fixers: The Tour Guides of War Reporting… don’t trust them blindly… many of the ones I’ve worked with are dead now.
Don’t Follow the Pack…by the time it’s “news,” it’s pretty old.
Visit Lightstalkers.org… sharing network of people who do inadvisable things in sketchy places.


Found it on Exposure Compensation.

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  1. I count myself as an informed, educated American but can hardly bring myself to read another article on Iraq or Afghanistan. The same goes with looking at new war reporting. Nothing will ever be solved by blowing to hell another people with heavy weaponry. There is much more interesting photography being done by the likes of Bendiksen, Koudelka, Pinkassov etc. Does anyone really believe that we can stop terrorists?! US actions brought these wars on and our continued action ensure that they will continue.

  2. “Equip Yourself With the Right Gear… Avoid the faux-commando stuff …Bring plastic (not your credit cards)… Pack your go bag – AKA, your grab bag, jump bag, snatch bag, bug-out bag, etc.”

    Can someone explain exactly what the author is trying to say here?

    What is the “right gear” as opposed to “faux-commando stuff”?

    Bring plastic what?!

    Moreover, what kind of bag is the author talking about? The author uses a list of bag names interchangeably (although their very names suggest they are different) without explaining what he is talking about.

    I found it very hard to follow, despite being a native English speaker.

    • @Ron, If you don’t know what these terms mean, you probably shouldn’t be in a war zone. Every photojournalist knows what he’s talking about.

  3. Kuwayama’s war zone images are unlike any others I’ve ever seen. It’s moving stuff and worth a visit to his site.

  4. I don’t know about war zones, but plastic bags are a must and often overlooked *any* time you’re traveling to shoot.

    Cool post. That photograph, by the way, stopped me in my tracks.

  5. Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of Teru’s work especially his use of the Widelux. I just am a bit of a pacifist and wish the US never incited its enemies in the first place. Of course since September 11th we have had to keep the Taliban at bay. I just wonder how there is a way out when we’ve bombed the heck out of places and killed so many civilians?

    • @Davin Ellicson, I live in Oakland, CA, just south of the Berkeley border. There’s a popular bumper sticker here: “We’re creating enemies faster than we can kill them.” I think it’s Nachtwey who sometimes refers to himself as an “anti-war photographer.”

      • Ian, I should have worded my first post better. I love Teru’s work very much and his use always of black and white and holga and Leica and widelux is great! I just can’t bring myself to read the NY Times stories each day about the wars anymore. Yes, I know Nachtwey’s line.

  6. thanks for the comments, and thanks Rob for the bump…it occurs to me that a lot of my dubious “expertise” was acquired while on assignment for Rob when he was at Outside magazine… when he sent me on my first assignment to the arctic circle, it was the probably first time I’d ever slept in a tent. that feels like a long decade ago.

    davin, I hear you on the repetitiveness of war photography and reporting – it’s been said that there’s a small group of about 20 photographers who hop from one conflict to another, producing most of the images that the world sees – that’s not necessarily a good dynamic, and it’s one that’s breaking down as far as I can tell… the most powerful images of the Iraq war, for example, were made by Army reservists with point and shoot cameras.

    demystifying the mechanics of working/traveling “over there”, I hope, might help us get new eyes and a broader vision.

    btw, if you’re not familiar with their work, you should look at Michael Ackerman and Sylvia Plachy…they invented the holga/widelux/leica approach – the rest of us are just distant imitators.

    ron, the “right gear” headline was added by the publisher, not my words – if there was such a thing as right and wrong gear, I probably wouldn’t know what it was.

    ian – will be in your hood in a few days – perhaps we finally get that print swap on?

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