Friday, November 7, 2008

NYTimes Video with my photos

Photographer Ashley Gilbertson and reporter Campbell Robertson talk about their views of Iraq in a video produced by a great journalist and my friend Stephen Farrel at the Baghdad Bureau. The video contains many of my photos, as well as others from great photojournalists I had pleasure to work with in Iraq. Enjoy!

Friday, October 31, 2008

The New York Times Photo Journal

My blog entry Funeral of Sand and Fog is up online.
Several of us at the Baghdad Bureau, worked all summer to make a photo blog from Iraq. The result is the Photographers Journal as a part of the Baghdad Bureau Blog. Other great photographers like Max Becherer, Joao Silva, Ashley Gilbertson, Franko Pagetti and others will also have their work posted soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


So, after “regrouping” from my Iraq assignment, my Vertigo paragliding buddies sat me down and convinced me to stick around for few more weeks and participate in the annual PAMPUR yacht race in the Adriatic Sea in Croatia. A race organized sole from Macedonians. “We don’t even have a sea” my notion was.
“- No worries, we did it last year and almost sunk the damn boat!” That was good enough for me!

Wonderful Tanja, our boat chef, thank you for all the snacks, food, and coctails!

sailing out from Sukosan marina.

After couple of meetings with my boat crew, named Vertigo Wave Team (think a bar and lotsa drinking,) where I didn’t understand absolutely anything, we filled the bus with ton of food, loads of booze, a guitar and after 18h of straight ride, we were in the Sukosan marina, near Zadar in Croatia. There was a huge storm approaching, the sky was dark and getting darker since it was 4.30 when we sailed out.

winds picking up...

...and getting dark

It was a blast. Music was playing, drinks were flowing, jokes were told and sails were open! It was a deferent blast when we realized that the wind was picking up and our speed increasing. We had ‘Bavaria 44’ yacht, winds were 35 knots (some 60kmh, around 45mph) and we were sailing with 9 to 10 knots! For a 44ft boat with 9 people on board, 4 of us first timers - this was a pretty fast deal. I had no idea at the time! I had 9 layers of clothes on me, cigarette in one and a can in the other hand and having a blast! I thought this is the way it’s supposed to be! Since there was nothing for me to do except hold that beer for a dear life (there was no way I would go under the deck in a 45 degrees angle rocking boat for another can) it clicked to me that I should probably take some photos.

CD player died - abandon ship!!!

Only after reviewing my photos on the back display of my camera, I realized the seriousness of the faces of my mates. We were heading out on open seas, it was dark and getting darker and wind was picking up! Light was gone, there was no moon, my stomach was saying no to another beer and after 5 hours of rocking and bouncing on the slippery deck I resolved to paying attention to the GPS and helping the skipper Cigi to the little lagoon, where we could find shelter form rough seas and spend the night.

We are all experienced pilots and navigation was not an issue, so we squeezed between shallow banks of the lagoon, found a bowie between few other boats and resolved to heavy drinking. I slept like a baby that night!

checking out the island of 'Dugi Otok'

Calm sea, gentle breeze, bring the drinks out!

The next few days, the weather got better, sea got calmer, and the never ending party continued. We were 11 boats altogether, some time we would meet on a sea, some night we threw an anchor together and made our boats a huge swaying dancing floor, tripping of ropes, wires, and other yacht parts laying on deck that I have no idea what they are called. It was awesome!

boat party

three boats join together for a party

On the first race day, we had to stay behind in the marina and help a boat stuck in other boats ropes in the marina (apparently a great disgrace to the skipper of that boat.) A diver was called in for help. We had a late start and we got the 7th place that day. That was not a reason to despair, we partied hard that night and the next day we got serious! We pushed hard, tightened the sails, and payed attention to the charts, the GPS and what not. We got the 3rd place, right behind a boat with MUCH bigger sails and a crew with a professional Croatian skipper. The rest of the boats were 30 minutes and more behind! I’d say not bad at all for a bunch of rookies and first timers!

catching up with the other boats

getting down to business

my first sailing lesson (photo by Dima)

I was supposed to be back in the States, missed my Oct 15th tax deadline, probably late on a ton of bills, god knows how many missed assignments and jobs, but this my friends was an adventure worthy of my presence! Till the next one…

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Yacht Race

What an unbelievable week I just had! High winds, open sea, big sails, big waves - Vertigo Wave Team participated in 'PAMPUR' yacht race in Croatia!

More photos and story will follow in the next few days, here is a sneak peak:)

Monday, September 15, 2008


The last few days we've been pummeled by sand and then some more sand. Tomorrow I'm scheduled to depart out of here, but if the storm does not let up, I'm looking into at least two more days of this. Here's Baghdad this afternoon. Photos made some 2 hours ago.

Yesterday we photographed the funeral of a leader of Awakening Council in Western Baghdad. It was very tense situation, there was a lot of shooting in the air and the sand storm only contributed to the creepiness of the mood. The story is in print today in the paper and here are more shots. It was earlier in the day, the storm was intense and the light was little different than this afternoon.

Baghdad 4.15pm

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ten Commandments of the God of News

Last year in Iraq, I spent most of my embeds with Stephen Farrell, NYT Baghdad correspondent. Terrific Irish 'bloke'. When on a story he never stops, and before he finishes it, he is already thinking about the next one. This are his ten commandments he stick to, religiously:

1. Thou shalt worship no other gods before me, especially the gods of Features and Opinion. Which are lesser deities.

2. Thou shalt not take life, or have one.

3.For seven days shalt thou labour, then shalt thou interrupt thy holiday.

4. If you go, you get.

5. A good splash is better than a good shag. (some worshipper resistance to this one)

6. When thy news editor sayeth ‘Go forth for two weeks’, it shall mean three months.

7. Thy partners shall come and go. But mainly they go.

8. When thy newsdesk demandeth ‘Where is thy story, the hour approacheth the line of the dead?’ Thou shalt express great lamentations, blame thy internet server, and offer to send it 'again' immediately.

9. Every war correspondent scorneth the journalist 100 yards closer to the bullets as a ‘nutter’ and the one 100 yards behind as a ‘pussy’. Invariably s/he alone gotteth it just right.

10. Thou shalt not bore thy colleagues with great warzone anecdotes of yesteryear, for verily everyone stopped listening after “…no, sorry, it was 1987.”

11. Send more money.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Video from Sadr City, Baghdad

We visited Sadr City few times, saw the Friday prayer and Sadrsists signing in blood a pledge to Shiite saint, after a call from radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr. Just to give you a general idea how it loosk like I shot a little video from the few times we were there. It took me lot of time to upload the huge file, and big apologies for the reduced quality.

I'm on a long embed at the moment, part military, part civilian trip to the North of Iraq, it should be fun, and I'm looking for some good images. I'll post a longer story about embeds soon, as I'm documenting the whole trip.

Monday, August 25, 2008


50.000 people packed the stadium in Bagdad, a match between Kurdistan and Baghdad teams, 1:0. Last time this many people gathered on a football match in Baghdad was 1990. Here are the photos that did not make the today's story, I quite like them :)

this is the view from outside the stands, it was near the end of the match, overtime was played and people were already leaving the stadium.

The upper seats were packed with people.

After consecutive 3rd nite, I finally managed to upload a video online, and I'll post it tomorrow. I'm also due to leave for a longer embed in the next few days. Hopefully, more good photos on the way.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A day story in Baghdad

6 dead and 10 wounded was the lethal score in this attack

We usually hear about bombings pretty quick. The initial information are always sketchy. One or two dead, seems nothing "serious" to cover. When the number of casualties comes to about above 5, it gets our attention. Don't get me wrong. The number of casualties equals the exposure we want to have outside. Less we are out there, less the chances are of us being kidnapped or shot. Last week it was the annual Shiite pilgrimage to Karbala. Attacks were occurring daily.

In the past we couldn't cover bomb sites for safety concerns and it was not allowed by the officials. This year, most of the time we also can't cover it because the street is either blocked off or the explosion was in some dodgy area of Baghdad. But, if we stay in the bureau, we certainly won't get any coverage. The paper will simply publish a wire photo, usually from the local agency photographers that regularly chase tragic events like this, and we end up staying in the bureau.

The wreck of the car that was used for the attack

Last Friday, after an hour (or so) we got an info about bombing, the casualty number rose to 6, and we decided to check it out. It was a place in Shaab neighborhood where the Shiite pilgrims were assembling to the buses to go to Karbala. A car filled with explosives drove to the crowd and killed 6, wounded 10. Last night we heard about a motorcycle suicide bomber that killed 15. One does wonder, how do you pack an explosive so powerful to kill so many people on a motorcycle? Do you use the suitcase in the back of the motorcycle? Is there one dude with explosive strapped around his body? Two maybe? How do they decide who detonates first? Paper, Rock Scissors?

Anyway, going to a bomb site is a bit complicated business. Lot of the bombings are close to various Iraqi police check points and its a no-photo place. It's weird though, they will restrict you in any way they seem fit, but once they get to know you, they will ASK for their photo to be taken! Its ridiculous! Last year I had the Iraqi police colonel in Faluja, posing and smiling, holding a photo of someones decapitated head in a bucket!!! You can find it on my web site, I'm not kidding!
When it comes to lens obstacles, kids are the worst. They will pose and stand in front of your camera, play with the remaining of the car that blew up just hours ago, like the headlight, and they will smile and not get out of your sight for nothing. Once you shout at them to move away - they will start cursing and point their fingers to their head like they will shoot the "ameriki". Kids are everywhere. The other day a kid was dragging a blew up tire from the VBID (Vehicle Born Explosive Device, as the US forces call a car-that-has-shit-load-of-bombs-inside) and once the rest of the kids saw me photographing that, they all flocked around the first one, who had to fight the others not to take the tire away from him!!!

Anyhow, the bomb site was already "cleaned" we got there pretty late, and we got some stuff on people trying to salvage goods from the store that burnt because of the blast. People were packing various food, probably for re-sale in a different shop. Reason more not to buy stuff from local stores here. A photo ran in the paper. You can find the story here.

My next post will contain few shots of an embed I did with the US soldiers last week in Baghdad, it was good to get out of the bureau for a change and take few shots of the military on the ground.
My regards to all of you.