Thursday, July 17, 2008

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.

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