“I think that there has to be an accurate, visual record of the war, and I think it’s going to be a much bloodier, a much harder visual record than the one we’ve been seeing.” So begins photographer Mike Kamber’s piece on military censorship in Iraq.
The piece was produced for BagNewsNotes and recently won Pictures of the Year prize. A contract photographer for the New York Times, Kamber has covered Iraq since 2003. Ironically, or predictably, the U.S. military working hand in hand with the Iraqi government officially and effectively limited coverage of so many different categories of events that by the time Kamber made this piece with producer Sandra Roa in 2010, nearly every action except the most mundane was off limits. “At first the car bombs were off limits. And then we couldn’t photograph hospitals and then the morgues were off limits. And then we couldn’t photograph prisoners and then we couldn’t photograph wounded soldiers.” The result, a war scrubbed clean to fit a narrative that demanded a happy ending. One of the most cynical bits recounted in the Kamber piece comes at .53 seconds when he describes the military policy forbidding the photographing of detainees: Tie people up, bag them, march them out of their homes, but photograph them, well that would be a violation of their rights.