Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Back in Chicago

Webpage updates to follow.

Check in the next few days.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bismil, Turkey 07202008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Iraq Trip - Day 3

Made it back to Diyarbakir today, took about 11 hours by taxi and bus to get here from Erbil. It took forever to get back into Turkey at the border, it was a very slow process. It's been a long day, I'll leave it at that for now.

Self portrait in the back on an Taxi heading from Erbil to Zakho, Iraq, with my fixer Memet (left) and a passanger who shared the ride with us (right).

Iraq Trip - Day 2 - Part 2

Erbil, Iraq
The afternoon was much better than the frustrating morning. I worked on a second story idea I had about the city, the reconstruction effort. Erbil has seen a boom in construction, to document this I started out just doing some wide shots of the massive amounts of cranes in one part of the city, obviously this is not enough material for a story, so Memet and I decided to try to sneak into a site to photograph the workers. There was an armed guard at the entrance, after a brief conversation and explanation of who we were, he agreed to let us in as long as we left our passports at his guard post, I assume to hand over to the police if we caused or got into trouble. We did and proceeded on in to the site, we were waved in by some workers so I started shooting away. Not more than 5min elapsed and another security guard, unarmed, approached us with what must have been a supervisor of some sort. They seemed very puzzled by our presence, but not overly concerned, Memet again explain our story, they replied we needed permission from the main construction office, which was a ways off. I assumed this was the end of it and we were being kicked out. The supervisor volunteered to call over to the office for us, after a brief chat the office said it was fine for us to be there as long as we were accompanied. We spent a good amount of time on the site, I got some decent material for this brief photo story, I managed to step in a pile of dry plaster, making my shoes and lower legs solid white, but it went well otherwise.
The rest of the evening we just explored the city, snapping photos of interesting people and locations we found on the way. I now feel satisfied that I accomplished something with my day in Iraq, I was concerned I would leave empty handed in terms of photos. Sure I didn’t have enough time to work on a story on the Kurdish Military forces, as I had hoped, but I got to experience the city, and document a historic part of it’s history. Perhaps a second visit, with a larger budget, and some further advanced planning is due.

Some kids I encountered.

A sample of the reconstruction story.

Iraq Trip - Day 2 - Part 1

Erbil, Iraq
Well, I didn’t get to shoot as much this morning as I had hoped. Memet and I spend 8am-2pm trying to obtain permission to photograph the Kurdish soldiers at a base, or even just in the streets of Erbil. It is illegal to photograph police or soldiers in Northern Iraq without written permission. We started out at a nearby government office who listened to us, and agreed to give us permission, but after a brief discussion we realized they had misunderstood and only were writing permission to photograph the soldier at their gate. We were then send to a second office, where we waited for 2 hours to be told we had to meet with the Ministry of the Interior, we went there, waited for an hour to hear we needed to head to the Ministry of the Peshmerge, but it should not be a problem. We arrive there, and discover they would give us permission but they need one weeks notice, obviously that is not possible since I leave Iraq in less than 24 hours.
As a backup Memet started up conversations with soldiers we encountered on the street, and coaxed them into not getting upset by being photographed, in most instances, this conversation was so obtrusive to the soldiers that it totally destroyed any moment that would be captured. They were just too conscious of my presence. The one exception in the morning was a checkpoint outside a government building’s entrance, the soldiers allowed me to photograph them as they stood guard, and dealt with incoming traffic. I was able to grab a few uninterrupted photos of them, where there wasn’t any obvious reaction to my presence. On our way out our taxi passed the same checkpoint, and I grabbed a shot of one of the soldiers reacting to me while talking to the driver. Usually I can’t stand photographs where the subject is reacting to my presence in any degree, but this one I don’t mind. Nothing portfolio worthy came from this morning, but the experience was a very interesting one. If I had more than one day to stay here, I could see the level of access increasing greatly, but unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to make that possible.

Kurdish soldier guarding a government building in Erbil, Iraq, Wed. July 16.

Vehicle checkpoint outside of a government building in Erbil, Iraq, Wed. July 16.

Iraq Trip - Day 1

Erbil, Iraq

I started the day by hastily packing 3 days worth of clothes, my camera gear, and my laptop into two Domke bags, and leaving my large backpack with the front desk to hold until my return to Turkey. I met Memet, my fixer, at 8am in the hotel lobby, marking the start if our 3 day excursion into Kurdish Northern Iraq.
Memet had flown into Diyarbakir last night, and this morning we boarded a bus around 8:30am headed to Silopi, a town near the border. During the 4 hour ride we passed countless Turkish military outposts, there must have been one every 10min. It appeared in some instances the Turkish military was more numerous than the actual in habitants of the area. The Turkish presence in the Kurdish region was very clear. During the trip there was a brief stop when we had passed a relatively severe car accident in which a car had lost control and gone off the road. The car was totaled, but the family inside seemed relatively unhurt, just very shaken up, which is amazing since I have yet to see one person wear a seatbelt here. The bus gave the accident victims a ride to the next city, Mardin.
After arriving in Silopi we began the confusing process of crossing the border, it is required to take a taxi across if you do not have your own vehicle, to save on costs we shared a ride with a businessman from Van who had the same destination as us. Upon arriving at the border, we began the confusing maze of checkpoints, getting out passports photocopied, stamped, etc. After the long process was over we grabbed an Iraqi taxi on the opposite side of the border. There is no bus service in Iraq so we were force to take a long and expensive cab ride from the border to Erbil. This ride was shared with the same businessman we crossed the border with to shave 1/3 off of our price. Getting to Erbil was more costly than expect, I am a bit worried I may exhaust my funds before getting back to Diyarbakir, even though I grabbed some extra cash.
Just seeing Iraq is a bit overwhelming; we started out passing through the mountainous north, then heading through some garbage filled, depressing villages when we got closer to Erbil. The closer we got the thicker the dust in the air got as well. The heat is hard to describe, temperatures may reach 120deg during my visit.
We spend an hour or so exploring the area this evening, but we were just too exhausted from the travel to do anymore. The hotel is surprisingly expensive, more than in Diyarbakir; the quality is satisfactory but kind of lacking. The AC cut off sometime between when we checked in and now, the shower isn’t the best, and it’s just overall a bit run down. But I suppose it is Iraq.

Tomorrow AM the plan is to head over to the local HQ for the local Iraqi military force and see if we can get permission to photograph some Kurdish Iraqi soldiers working in the area. Memet seems to think it shouldn’t be too hard to obtain, I hope that is the case. If it doesn’t pan out, I’ll hunt down a different story. Hopefully this brief trip goes well, it sure is costing a lot. I suppose it may be worth it already for the experience of seeing Iraq first hand, gaining this story to tell, and the interesting stamp on my passport.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Diyarbakir Metal Workers - 07142008

Went back to the blacksmiths again today, probably the last time. Focused more on shooting some details, and worked with a translator to get some information for writing captions. I may return when I get back in Diyarbakir in 4 days, but we'll see. Will be hard to edit everything down to a short photo story.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Diyarbakir Sunset 07122008

Spent the evening on the outskirts of Diyarbakir along the Tigris River. After closing up his shop the owner of one of the blacksmith shops had offered to drive me out there to grab some shots of the sunset. Was a spectacular view, a good contrast to city where I have spent all my time previously. Enjoyed the view while drinking some Efes and having a snack. Given that I speak almost no Turkish and he didn't know any English it was incredibly difficult to communicate, but it was an enjoyable time nonetheless.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Diyarbakir Continued - 07122008

Returned to the first group of workers today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Diyarbakir, 07112008

Photographed some sheet metal fabricators this morning, as well as a very friendly Kurdish shop owner.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Diyarbakir Metal Workers - Part 2

Stopped by later this afternoon for a return. They had me join them for a snack of tea and grapes.