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Need information regarding embedding in Afghanistan

Hi Everyone

My name is Bradley Scott, I’m a photographer from Perth, Australia and am wanting to embed in Afghanistan this year. I have been thinking about this for a few years now and am financially able to finally do this.

The only problem is i don’t really meet the requirements. I’m not a photojournalist, I’m not employed but a media organization so i do not have a press card and i cannot prove my career as a photojournalist.

So i guess my question is.. Do you know how i can get around this? I have found a few organizations on the net that can provide me a press card for an annual payment, does anybody know if they are ok to use? I can prove my career as a fashion and music photographer, will that also count?

Im hoping to embed with the US marines, Australia already has me on there list but have not asked me to provide any information as of yet. Has anybody embedded with the Australian military?

I would greatly appreciate anybody that could answer any of these questions.

Thank you

Bradley Scott

by Bradley Scott at 2011-01-03 06:39:36 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

My first question is WHY? If your not with any media organization then what purpose do you have to go? I hate to sound like a dick but you sound like a “Trustafarian” (dude with too much of mommy and daddy’s money and nothing better to do)

“I’m not a photojournalist”
“I’m not employed by a media organization”
“I do not have a PRESS card”

But I do have a ton of money and I stayed at a Holiday Inn last night? Sorry but WTF?

You might start your thread with whatever reason you think you have to go distract some MARINE from keeping himself alive instead of babysitting some fashion photographer with too much time and money. Again I’m sorry but your thread is just begging for this sort of response! Save your money, a soldiers life and go by a ticket to Disneyland and ride a roller coaster!

by Nick Morris | 03 Jan 2011 06:01 | San Diego CA, United States | | Report spam→
Hahaha nice one dickhead.

I could go on all day about what you sound like but i wont. If you don’t have any information for me please refrain from sharing your personal opinion as i don’t particularly give a shit about it and i don’t think many other people do either.

Sorry mate

by Bradley Scott | 03 Jan 2011 09:01 | | Report spam→
Hi Bradley,

As someone who has spent a significant amount of this last year embedded with the Marines in Helmand, i think you seriously need to either elaborate on and/or examine your motives for going, and what you hope to get out of a trip like the one you’re describing. The tone of your post, which is what I believe Nick reacted to above, makes it sound as if you view embedding as a sort of exotic vacation.

Even if that is not the case, I would definitely reconsider trying to find a way to maneuver your way in. Helmand is no joke, man, and the risks and danger are VERY real. As someone who has never covered conflict before, you’re not in a place to calculate the many serious risks associated with working embedded, and you’d thus be putting not only yourself, but soldiers around you at risk. Nevermind the very real possibility that you could lose your limbs, or worse, and the financial impact this would have on you and yours without the backing of an organization.

We all start somewhere with this stuff, but Afghanistan is not the place for beginners at the moment. Ask guys like Joao or Emilio—both of whom are highly experienced, and have nevertheless been seriously injured in the last two years, and i bet they’d tell you the same.

if it’s photojournalism that you’re interested in, i’d suggest, as an alternative, traveling somewhere else where you might be able to get some experience covering a society in the midst of change or upheaval. i’d focus less on chasing violence, and more on honing your visual story-telling. do that for a couple years and then, if you feel ready, move on to covering afghanistan. that’s the way I did it……


by [former member] | 03 Jan 2011 09:01 | Pasadena, United States | | Report spam→
Hey Bryan

I appreciate your feedback mate thank you very much.

I do understand what you are saying and i knew i would cop some flack for expressing my interest to go from seasoned conflict photographers, but how did you start out? How did you feel when you made the decision to pursue something?.

I traveled to Los Angeles early this year and spent 3 months there shooting in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods in America, i know thats far from helmand but i have had numerous guns shoved in my face, seen violence first hand and i do understand the risks in this project and accept that.

I’m not about chasing violence, i’ve seen my share, but i do have something to bring. I don’t classify myself as a fashion photographer or music photographer or photojournalist.. I shoot what i feel and what i see and believe in. Alot of people do not understand this and that’s fine but all I’m asking is some information.

I appreciate your response Bryan thank you again.


by Bradley Scott | 03 Jan 2011 09:01 | | Report spam→
+1 Bryan
Mr Scott what I sound like is someone who’s been there and find it utterly insane that people like you think with a few bucks in your pocket a backpack and a camera your able to just pop on over to good ol Afghanistan and take a few pics, then run home and brag over a few beers that you still have your head attached after surviving a war torn region. This isn’t my personal opinion. I’ve been there and plenty of other places and this is certainly NOT a place for a FASHION photographer to cut his teeth. I’m not giving you an opinion I am giving you advise on how to stay alive. This is serious shit and if you don’t like the tone in which you’re receiving it then you certainly wont last 24 hours over there. I’ll ask again WHAT reason do you have for going over there? If you want help for a legit reason believe me, ask around and you’ll find I’ll be one of the first LS’rs to lend a hand. If your going over just get your nuts off then this is only a tiny sample of what the others will throw at you. You poked your head in hear and started the thread on the WRONG note so don’t get your shrimp in a bunch over my reply.

by Nick Morris | 03 Jan 2011 09:01 | San Diego CA, United States | | Report spam→
I’m not gonna get my shrimp in a bunch mate i appreciate you response. But again (not to sound disrespectful) all im asking for is some information.
I dont understand the “people like me” line. You dont know me, you dont know what I’ve done, been through or accomplished. You dont know how i handle myself in certain situations, and I’m sure when you first started everyone thought about you exactly the same way you think about me.
How did i start off the thread with the WRONG note? By asking for information? By trying to understand how to get started?

I definitely do understand your point about you trying to tell me how to stay alive and i greatly appreciate that thank you but how else would you suppose someone “cuts their teeth” in a worn torn region? I am in no way going into this without proper thought and respect for the soldiers, civilians and other media personal involved but please don’t belittle me because you’ve been in the game for “x” amount of years and think i can’t hack it.

by Bradley Scott | 03 Jan 2011 10:01 | | Report spam→
Well Bradley I checked into your website and did a google search. All I see is fashion photographer peppered with a few shots of some more models on an LA street. So what! I grew up in LA. I walked the bad streets of Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philly, Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez. That did not give me the right to hop on over to Afghan. What gave me the “right” was 8 years of service in the US Army, 5 years as a federal agent AND 6 months of my own time going through 13th Marine Expeditionary Forces Pre-Deployment Certification. Meaning I had to train with them and show them I can take care of myself and integrate with them if the need arose before I could embed. What I’m trying to say is you can’t sign up on Dec 11 2010 at LightStalkers and come in here and say I’m a fashion photographer with a ton of money and no media experience can anyone tell me how to get to Afghanistan? We’re professional journalists here and most of us have an obligation to keep our soldiers safe and hopefully reign in any hot rockets with a camera that wants to go shoot bombs, carnage, death and destruction with no understanding as to the true nature of what’s really going on and how dangerous you could be to the soldiers there. I don’t mean any offense and my comments are all made tongue and cheek to a certain point. But the soldiers over there have enough on their plates and really don’t need an in-experienced fashion photographer bebopping around one of the FOB’s Sorry. Like Bryan said start with something a little less volatile and move up as we all did.

by Nick Morris | 03 Jan 2011 10:01 | San Diego CA, United States | | Report spam→
Thank you Nick.

I do have tremendous respect for you guys and what you do, i really do.

However i will be doing this and someone telling me i dont have the right to isnt going to stop me Im sorry.

Agree to disagree?


by Bradley Scott | 03 Jan 2011 10:01 | | Report spam→
I’m in NO WAY telling you you don’t have a right to do it. What I’m telling you is you failed to give any reason why anyone here would assist you. It sounds like an adrenalin run and nobody here will give you the time of day if that’s your plan. You don’t parachute from an airplane just because you bought a parachute. You parachute from an airplane with a minimum of hours spent learning HOW to parachute from an airplane. Also not to sound like some big shot but this is a very small community and we all have very solid contacts. I have to say if I met up with someone who I thought was just an adrenalin junkie was applying for an embed and would be a danger I’d drop a dime to the S-4 and suggest they have their name flagged. So, be careful about flexing your I have a right to and no ones going to stop me. That’s not what I said, by “right” I meant that I had the skill and knowledge to not be a danger to myself and others. Like I said in the beginning I’d be one of the first members to help you out. Helping other PJ’s with US Marines is fairly easy for me due to my close relationships and the contacts I have built over the years. My father retired Command Sgt Major of the Marine Corps and that alone has quite a few perks and connections. I’m going to end here. If you feel you can establish a good solid cause for going to the region I’d be more than happy to help you out. Feel free to contact me in private. If not good luck in your endeavors.

by Nick Morris | 03 Jan 2011 10:01 | San Diego CA, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Bradley,

I don’t think Nick or myself is saying that you don’t have the right to go, just that it is irresponsible to do it at this juncture without at least getting some basic applicable experience/training first. I’d look into a Rory Peck hostile environment training grant at the minimum, in your case for both the combat/armaments orientation stuff, as well as the combat medical training course as well, though neither will prepare you for the real thing.

In the end, a plan is worth shit, and planning is worth everything. Another good place to start is reading back through old lightstalker posts on the subject, of which there are several. there’s a lot of good info in there regarding things you’ll need (lots of expen$ive gear), insurance (now required to embed), etc….

Also be aware that depending on the Public Affairs Unit that is handling your request, in addition to your lack of accreditation, a lack of previous hostile environment/combat experience will probably be taken into account, and might result in you not being granted an embed, and spending an inconvenient amount of time waiting when you could have been out working on other stuff.

again, no one is saying don’t go, just prepare yourself in order to minimize the risks, at the very minimum, to those around you.

by [former member] | 03 Jan 2011 11:01 | Pasadena, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Bradley,
I send you a PM.

by Ricardo Garcia | 06 Jan 2011 19:01 (ed. Jan 6 2011) | Barcelona, Spain | | Report spam→
Hi Bradley,

may I ask you what are you hoping to achieve with your photos of Afghanistan, what’s your ultimate goal? Are you hoping to stop all the wars and you want to do it with your photos? Or do you think wars are cool and you want to keep them going with your photos? Some other reasons?

by Laura Larmo | 07 Jan 2011 10:01 | Milan, Italy | | Report spam→
Hi Bradley

Im also an ‘aspiring’ photojournalist and I once toyed with the idea of doing something similar. But when you think about it properly its madness! I have no experience in any sorry of hostile environment and no military background…. What do you expect to gain from it? Are you that good a photographer that you think a few months in Afghanistan and all the major publications will be snapping up your shots?
The people posting on this thread are right. Unless you have the correct training and experience its incredibly irresponsible to put OTHER peoples lives at risk. If you want to get yourself killed then fine. As Bryan Denton said above, go work on you visual story telling…if you’ve got some cash you could travel all over the world for a few years.

I dunno, its like drink driving…….if you wanna do it and smash yourself into a tree then thats your own fault and nobody’s gonna give a s*** if you live or die. But if your drink driving and hit a car with whole family in it and they die……! Your stupidity cost there lives…..

If you wanna risk your life then fine, but get some experience and training so that you can handle yourself in a situation like Afghanistan before you go and at least minimalise the risk that your presence will bring to to others.

I wish you the best with your plans


by David Moore | 07 Jan 2011 11:01 | Cork, Ireland | | Report spam→
I’ll chime in here… while I don’t have experience in CrazyStan, I did spend more than a month in the Bangkok Red Shirt riots/protests earlier this year. I was the videographer that captured General Seh Daeng getting snipered in the head approx 4-6 feet away from me.

Two of my friends were seriously injured (one shot multiple times and one got hit by a grenade). A Japanese Reuters videographer and an Italian freelancer were killed. At least two Thai reporters also died.

It’s all fun and games until bullets and grenades start flying. Up until everything went completely haywire, there were probably several hundred photo and video journalists running around. Some were veterans of hostile environments, while most had no business being there. You had people wearing flip flops and no body armor (no vest, no helmet, nothing).

LA streets… sure they can be bad, but I don’t think you can imagine how horrible a live fire zone can be. When people go crazy… they go crazy beyond what you have seen.

by Humphrey Cheung | 08 Jan 2011 07:01 (ed. Jan 8 2011) | Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
well put humprey .

by chad hunt | 08 Jan 2011 17:01 | new york city, United States | | Report spam→

I think this might be a record for worst introduction on the forum. As others have asked, you might want to, at the very least, explain what your goal is. Why do you want to embed, what are you trying to do with your pictures? Simply stating that you just want to do this isn’t really making sense. Are you striving to tell some sort of story or to just tour carnage for the hell of it.

Nobody here is trying to put you down, it just appears that you might not understand what you are getting into, or worse, that you are motivated for all the wrong reasons.

Also, as someone who has worked in both crime ridden neighborhoods and embedded in Afghanistan, I can tell you the two do not compare.

by Andrew A. Nelles | 08 Jan 2011 17:01 | Chicago, United States | | Report spam→
Shit! I didnt think there would be such a response, I’m sorry for the late response i have been down south for the last few days working.

I do understand what everyone is saying and will be taking your advice to start smaller before traveling to Afghanistan.

To answer some of the questions: Im not a war junkie going there just to see war and carnage, i do have a goal and a particular photo i am trying to make.
I will be attending course’s such as combat first aid training and some sort of working in a war zone course.
I dont believe a photograph will ever stop war so am not chasing that and have and will consider my family, friends and the soldiers before heading over.

I appreciate everyone’s response it has given me alot of information and advice, Thank you.

by Bradley Scott | 09 Jan 2011 08:01 | | Report spam→
I’ll chime in and go in Nick’s direction.

There are two questions you need to answer (not necessarily publicly, but for yourself). I tend to think it’s better to have the answer to these before you invest the time and effort into trying to do this, just because the more time and effort you invest, the less you’ll be likely to call it off if you decide it isn’t a good idea.

a) what is it that you’re looking for that will justify living the next 30 years of your life without your legs (or an arm, or another part of your anatomy) ?

b) what is it that you’re looking for that justifies making the guy next to you, who is 25, has two kids and a wife, take the risk of being permanently injured or killed ? Bonus question : how will you explain it to his widow, or to his kid whose father is now disfigured, in a wheelchair, with a hook instead of a hand, because he saved your life ?

Once you’ve answered those, please feel free to carry on with planning your career change. Be warned, though : there is no romanticism in conflict photography. Just a lot of pain, on many levels.

by [former member] | 09 Jan 2011 11:01 (ed. Jan 9 2011) | | Report spam→
Ditto Matthias.
Bradley, it’s really not polite to call someone who’s advice may well save you from getting yourself killed a “dickhead”.
Perhaps you could share some of your work from Los Angeles?
You should also bear in mind that even the most talented, experienced and respected war photographers are currently finding it very hard to get their work published. Many “aspiring” photojournalists aspire to do a job according to a model that really doesn’t exist anymore. Chances are, your work will not be seen, will do no good and will bring in no revenue at the cost of great personal risk to you and others.

by DPC | 09 Jan 2011 13:01 | Paris, France | | Report spam→
“Chances are, your work will not be seen, will do no good and will bring in no revenue at the cost of great personal risk to you and others.”

Two years ‘training’ with the Florida National Guard 53rd IBCT…flew on the same plane and left on the same plane with them as I spent a year over-seas with them on numerous convoys in and out of Iraq…….couple hours with the 4/2 Stryker leaving Iraq as the “last combat brigade” and I got a small bit in Newsweek….the three year long story on the FL NG has yet to see the light of day minus the soldiers and their families.

Oddly enough, it was worth it for the families………….

….although, some coin would have been nice too!

by Nigel Gray | 09 Jan 2011 15:01 (ed. Jan 9 2011) | Sarasota, Fl, United States | | Report spam→
Nigel – I have had the same experience with families of the soldiers I have photographed. When My image from the korengal outpost ran on the cover of TIME I received a call from the soldiers mother. In the background I could hear his children screaming “daddy is on the cover of TIME!” It has been very satisfying and a daily reminder of why I wanted to do photojournalism in the first place ( to make pictures that matter) …. but the sad fact is that putting together another trip to afghanistan would involve spending thousands of my own dollars with no real hope of making that money back….. magazines seem happy to " see that work I bring back" but none are willing to lay down money or support to send me. But teh pull is great and I will be looking into heading back in June …

by chad hunt | 09 Jan 2011 16:01 | new york city, United States | | Report spam→
Chad – I remember you talking about that a little while ago, must have been great to hear the kid in the background. When I started working with the unit back in ‘07 they were supposed to deploy to Afghanistan in ’10 and control battlespace, this was at the same time(ish) GA NG went over. The mission was given to active duty and the unit I went with got switched to convoy security in Iraq, stationed in Kuwait. It was not something I wanted to cover, but I made a promise to go with them and document all their training; from pre-pre-mob, to pre-mob, then deployment and finally de-mob. I saw five bases close down while in Iraq, that we used to frequent. I was there for the end of OIF and the beginning of New Dawn, or whatever it’s called. In the long run, it was not financially worth it but in some form important and I made many good friends over the years. All of the above I’m still trying to convince myself was important, I’ve only been home for two weeks and have been a bit cranky and bitter.

Hopefully I’ll get to Afghan in the summer and meet up with the Ohio Unit. I have a few friends who are going to try and get me connected with them.

by Nigel Gray | 09 Jan 2011 17:01 | Sarasota, Fl, United States | | Report spam→

while i’m all for darwinian selection in the field, i’m not certain advocating it publicly by suggesting that someone with no field experience go wander around afghanistan because he can’t get an embed is a great idea :P

by [former member] | 10 Jan 2011 10:01 | | Report spam→
@Bradley – most of the questions you’re getting hit with are the same ones that public affairs will ask.

The mandate of the public affairs/info officers is to facilitate press coverage of military operations, not to facilitate tourism. It’s not a question of being “qualified” or working for a news agency – bloggers and college students get embedded, and I’ve seen embedded sketch artists and oil painters, and there’s definitely no IQ test for this job.

Bottom line, what does ISAF get out of it? What happens with your photos or reporting that works for them? That’s the only question you really need to answer to get in, and there’s more flexibility in what “qualifies” as the traditional media disintegrates.

best, T

by teru kuwayama | 10 Jan 2011 12:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Re: your other questions – there’s not many Australian forces in Afghanistan, and most of the them are special operations, so they’re not likely to take embeds, especially photographers.

Press cards are worth the plastic they’re printed on. The only ID docs I have are a NY State Drivers license, a couple of passport, and the ID card issued by ISAF.

by teru kuwayama | 10 Jan 2011 13:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
teru – when are you planning on going back? and how can i work for basetrack !:-)?

by chad hunt | 10 Jan 2011 14:01 | new york city, United States | | Report spam→
@chad – heya, I’m over on the other side already – LS is glitched up, and I haven’t been able to update my location in a couple of weeks. I’m on a COP in Nowzad.

would be cool to get you over here – we’re stacked for embeds, and deployment is winding down, so tight – can you shoot me an email with dates you can travel in the next couple months? Working on getting Nigel over also.

anyway, this is just the first conop. long war, yo, and we’re shaping the battlespace.

by teru kuwayama | 10 Jan 2011 16:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Nigel, you better not get so such as a scratch in that body armor if you go to Afghan! That gear is blessed.

by Nick Morris | 10 Jan 2011 22:01 | San Diego CA, United States | | Report spam→
well…the vest…is showing some wear and I did write my name and blood type on the back pull thing. It’s all fun and games until a plate gets cracked……I spent Christmas day having a couple beers with my dad and hosing down all my equipment which had a years worth of salt stains and moon dust on it. My soft armour was almost practically white.

Teru – good thing you mentioned that, wasn’t sure if there was still a chance or not…I’ve been a lazy fat arse since I’ve been home. Need to start running now!

by Nigel Gray | 10 Jan 2011 23:01 | Sarasota, Fl, United States | | Report spam→
Heh…. my body armor from Thailand was beginning to smell like something died in it. All the heat and humidity combined with not showering (because you don’t want to miss anything newsworthy) makes everything stink.

Cracked ceramic plates… ahh done that. I plopped a vest down too hard on the airport conveyor belt. Didn’t realize those plates were so brittle.

by Humphrey Cheung | 10 Jan 2011 23:01 | Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
@nigel/chad, I’m working on getting as many people inserted as I can, but I’ve only got 3 slots, and we’re pretty stacked. Anyway, things move fast and the sked is always sliding with such a large team. So far, one went home early, another checked into the VA for psych/PTSD treatment, and fortunately no one’s had their legs blown off yet, but I’m knocking plywood.

For what it’s worth, 3 embed slots, full time, for the duration of a deployment, across an entire battalion’s AO – that’s not bad for a “news organization” that didn’t exist a few months ago, and doesn’t even have business cards, let alone press IDs. Can’t say that public affairs isn’t open minded about “qualifications”.

by teru kuwayama | 11 Jan 2011 13:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
“qualifications” go a long way in my experience. Especially when the soldiers are deciding whether or not to bring you a long on a mission.
Keep me in mind, I’d love to have an opportunity to make pictures that matter.

by chad hunt | 11 Jan 2011 15:01 | new york city, United States | | Report spam→
good thread, well worth saving this – has alot of great information lads.

I think what Bryan was saying is well worth following and sound advice:

“and might result in you not being granted an embed, and spending an inconvenient amount of time waiting when you could have been out working on other stuff.” -Bryan Denton

Theres no point going around with one essay or piece of work that you have, experimenting learning and experiencing the possibity of other stories and issues around the world will really tie up your portfolio for organisations you want to apply to for press passes. You might feel ready but knowing your ready both mentally and physically in other countries as well as financially is something to put into practice.

Some great reading lads and well worth saving this to the archives for an example of answers.

+1 all for their insight.

by Kevin Anthony Griffin | 12 Jan 2011 06:01 | Waterford, Ireland | | Report spam→
Bradley — there are plenty of photographers in Kabul freelancing/working on their own stories. As a couple people have mentioned above, there’s nothing stopping you from coming to Afghanistan on your own, renting a room at Gandamack, and starting to make some contacts. Kabul’s gotten hit a few times in the past few weeks, but it’s still safe, comparatively.

by [former member] | 14 Jan 2011 10:01 | Kabul, Afghanistan | | Report spam→
There are plenty of untold story’s all over Afghanistan. A massive problem is that most photojournalists / videographers over there work embedded, and by doing so miss much of what is going on at street level to ordinary Afghans.
Yes there are dangers working unembedded, from being kidnapped by criminal gangs, to unexploded ordnance, mines, to run ins with ISAF or Afghan security forces, as well as from the insurgents etc.
But if you have a good story in mined, then go for it.

by Phil Caller | 16 Jan 2011 23:01 (ed. Jan 17 2011) | | Report spam→
@chad, mos def, and you are quite right, but the squad leaders’ idea of “qualifications” are a lot different than the public affairs officers – from that perspective, most of the embedded journalists I’ve met over the years are wildly unqualified…

by teru kuwayama | 17 Jan 2011 09:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→

Asking as somebody who’s putting in a lot of effort to get over there, do you imagine prior military experience would have any positive influence, or be considered a viable “qualification?”

by CS Muncy | 17 Jan 2011 14:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
For a Public Affairs Officer, maybe yes because they might feel any reporting you’ll do may lean on the positive side. At the same time, the PAO’s you initially deal with are there more so to vet your credential’s and forward your request to the appropriate Division/Brigade and unit. Once in, the Brigade or BN PAO is more concerned with the story your going to tell about their soldiers. That’s where having prior service may come more in to play.

As Teru said though, there have been embeds approved from a wide range of “media outlets” that fall out of the traditional embed. From my personal experience and others I’ve worked closely with, once embedded a Brigade PAO can make your job incredibly easy or make it hell. The latter will approve you but then do every thing in their power to give you ZERO access and look at everything you want to do suspiciously. These PAO’s are dinosaur’s and are basically following their Brigade Col’s. guidance who is from the same media paranoid era.

Rant over..

by Bill Thomas | 17 Jan 2011 17:01 | NYC, United States | | Report spam→

I would thank that’d the rule for everything.

by CS Muncy | 18 Jan 2011 22:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I actually come from an Air Force public affairs background (as a junior enlisted from a small guard unit, so my own day to day contact with the media from the that end was very limited,) and I can tell you some of the stories I heard at the Defense Information School (both good and bad.) The biggest things I took away from DINFOS was not to be a tool, and to always respect your PAO.

by CS Muncy | 18 Jan 2011 23:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
Why don’t more “photojournalists” put their energy, money, creativity,and bodies on the line covering the anti-war movement. For the most part embedding is just perpetuating the myth that Afghanistan is the “good” war. Chris makes some great points here:


by [former member] | 19 Jan 2011 05:01 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
As everyone else has said, It is one area you really need experience in and can’t just be “thrown into the deep end.”

by Michael Franchi | 19 Jan 2011 06:01 | Darwin, Australia | | Report spam→

I agree wholeheartedly. The anti-war movement should have more coverage…the sad truth is that nobody seems to want to pay for or print it. I’ve been to D.C., all over California, Nevada, and New York shooting the anti-war scene, almost entirely on my own dime, with very little to show for it. In 2003, at one of the largest rallies in San Fransisco, I had a camera smashed and wisdom tooth knocked out by a SFPD riot stick while trying to get a good shot. None of my editors show any interest anymore (not that there was a lot of coverage to begin with), and that’s a damned shame.


Couldn’t agree more.

by CS Muncy | 19 Jan 2011 13:01 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
As Teru created a new platform with Basetrack, where he now has embed positions to fill, maybe something similar could be created for anti-war coverage. I am former NY Times, and worked with Chris Hedges and he left because he spoke out publically against the Iraq war at a commencement address and was told that he was not permitted to voice his opinion. Now he is free to write articles and books, speak on the radio and get arrested for the values he believes in. If photographers spent a fraction of the money and time (with the notable exception of CS) that they would spend getting themselves to Afghanistan on getting coverage out there that is more in alignment with their moral code, this could get seen and possibly funded. This is a new year and I am open to any ideas on implementation.

by [former member] | 19 Jan 2011 16:01 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→

I’m totally with you on that as this is what we need. Enough photogs showing great american heroes fighting the bad taliban and more about the deadly repercussion on the civils. Everybody cry for the 5000 soldiers killed but don’t care for the more than 200 000 civilians killed in both Afghanistan and Iraq.


by Yves Choquette | 19 Jan 2011 17:01 | Montreal, Canada, Canada | | Report spam→
@Yves True,and when photographers get these gruesome photos they are not published anyway. According to Chris’s article it has been one million Iraqi civilians killed. Its hard to get your mind around numbers like that.

by [former member] | 19 Jan 2011 17:01 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
Thanks for posting that link Mark.. Which circles back to the original intention of the post about embedding and the urgency some photographers feel to do so,even though their work will in all probability not get seen if they do document another kind of truth. Here is an interesting comment on the Rethink Afghanistan site "The American public is simply part of the suite of “enemy factors” the Pentagon figures into its planning. The suppression of journalists is an attack on our right to know, and therefore an attack on us. In war, manipulation and deception are key to any military’s operations. So how does it feel to be a target?"

by [former member] | 19 Jan 2011 19:01 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
For what it’s worth, I had interview and environmental footage in the film “Rethink Afghanistan”. Material that I would not of been able to capture if I had not been embedded at the time. The concept that the only type of footage, stills or stories that come out of embedding are “pro war” or glamorizing soldiers, etc. is bull.

As infrequently as they are published, photo’s of wounded or killed soldiers that show one of the horrific realities of war, would not even exist without embedding. In the recent year’s in Iraq, the ubiquitous post suicide car bomb scene where dozens of civilians are usually killed, became off limits to all journalists until the scene was cleared. This was a order from the Iraqi Govt. and enforced by Iraqi security forces. However, until recently U.S. forces would respond to these events and if you were embedded with the responding unit or in my case, one of the targets of the VBIED, you were able to cover it. Due mostly to the fact that the Iraqi Sec. forces didn’t really know who you were and assumed you were U.S. military.

So.. once again, the media had access to unglamorous non pro-war events that effected civilians and or soldiers that they would not have had, if it hadn’t been for being embedded. Trust me, I loved working unembedded with The NYT’s in Baghdad doing stories about the Iraqi people. That opportunity however is far and few between. If anyone wants to do stories in Iraq or Afghanistan unembedded, all it takes is a plane ticket. Have at it..

by Bill Thomas | 20 Jan 2011 00:01 (ed. Jan 20 2011) | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
After writing my above post, I came across a very relevant article by Richard Oppel Jr. in The NYT.


and from a Iraqi journalists view on embedding:

by Bill Thomas | 20 Jan 2011 00:01 (ed. Jan 20 2011) | NYC, United States | | Report spam→
I’m pretty late to this thread and damn I wish I had of seen this sooner but I will have to side with Nick Morris on this one.

Do you even realise what ‘embedding’ means and does for news? Creates nothing but American bias propaganda..you see what they want you to see, you eat what they want you to eat, you’re entire experience is fabricated by the State, for the State to boost American moral.

You are not a PHOTOJOURNALIST you are a TOURIST and how dare you parade your self about this web site claiming to have high morals about documenting ‘pain’ and ‘war’

Its the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard since Zoriah tried to sell those workshops in Haiti

Do me a favour… go to Afghanistan and give all your gear to an Afghani kid, that child has more chance at covering the REAL war in Afghanistan than you will ever have.

by Saira MacLeod | 20 Jan 2011 13:01 | Nottingham, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
There might be a less drastic solution than what Saira propose.

I saw a documentary two years ago, about a women from the state who live in Kandhahar, I just don’t remember her name. But some of you might know her as she’s an ex journalist, from the NY times I think… She was send over there to cover the aftermath and was so much touched by the suffering of the women than she decided to resign from her journalist job and live there to do something about it. She start a woman cooperative, making soaps trying to sell it outside through internet, etc.

Well I remember that she said that she welcome anyone willing to go there who’s also interested at covering something else than the official militaries action, to contact her anytime.

For me that would be an interesting alternative, if she’s still alive (she was sleeping with a Kalashnikov because of permanent threat from the Talibans and warlords).

by Yves Choquette | 20 Jan 2011 16:01 | Montreal, Canada, Canada | | Report spam→

This ex-journalist sounds amazing, the idea of wanted to help others using your own voice is one of the fundamentals of reporting stories…to help those people directly in more ways than one.

Watch the documentary ‘Born into Brothels’ by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman on the Red light district in Calcutta, India and see a similar thing happen there. Briski intended to cover a story on the women of these brothels but in fact earns her trust and becomes close to the children of these women. She ends up teaching them photography and trying to help them get out of their imminent fate of becoming prostitutes and pimps. A great doc may also be under ‘kids with cameras’.

You go to war torn countries to investigate and expose the pain and suffering of war…. not as a way to liven up your life. Please get some sense Mr. Scott.

by Saira MacLeod | 20 Jan 2011 17:01 | Nottingham, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
Saira, I don’t think your comments are entirely fair. Whilst Bradley’s initial questions may not have been totally thought out, he is asking questions that I’m sure a lot of people are interested in hearing the answers to, myself included. I can’t quite see what gives you the right to call him a ‘tourist’ sand suggest that he would only be going to a war torn country to liven up his own life. Maybe I missed it, but on this site where is he claiming to have these high morals you speak of?

by Jonathan Clifford | 03 Feb 2011 09:02 | Brisbane, Australia | | Report spam→
I’m quite late as well in this thread but i fell to say something about it. I understand, but not agree , on the fact that a photographer, in a certain moments, start to feel to throw himself in a damned “war contest”. All over the globe, these kind of images are the main requested by the market and by this unhealthy sense of curiosity of the people who want sneak inside, feel safe in their glass-bell, maybe get angry a do something(rarely). It seems that, for some photographers(who never experienced these kind of contexts) and beside the reasons why they want to involve themselves in war photography (could be for personal political reasons or only because bored by their own images, no important for me now), it seems that the only way to produce something strong and impactfully is to go on the field, where they “have the chance to tell how war is it from their point of view”(justification..)Well. Personally,i appreciated some works from different pjs, especially the ones who insist in how useless is war and how everyone should always remember that it could not be the solution for anything, or the ones concentrated on the “real” reasons on why a country decide to start a war. On the other side i watch doubtfully many works produced by what is form a me a “battle photographer”, a concept which could be apply mostly on the methodology of shooting. Go there, shoot and sell. Well, i respect these kind of photographers, but personally and most of the times do not communicate anything to me. What is always missed (especially with the editorial market), and in this i agree with many comments on this thread, is what is around these wars, thousands of stories which i think could give different prospectives of the people who are living the war direct on their skins and..i would say try to balance telling the other side of the coin.
Maybe Saira has been quite direct, but i understand perfectly the concept of “war tourism”, which you could apply it to photographers, video makers or international activists(for example, the ones who pass by Ramallah maybe understand what i mean). Is really sad to say so and very obvious, but this deep desire of being part of sufferance and pain is really part of the modern/western/human being. I’m not saying i accept it, it’s part of the game etc, but i’m saying that i understand for someone it’s difficult to deal with these kind of “psychological requests”. I don’t want to open a Sunday morning psycogroup therapy of course..but i just would recommend Bradley to start concentrating firstly on what is around you. Photographers should tell stories and the first step, i guess, is to exercise our mind/stomac/eye/whatever..to see stories around us, even within our neighborhood. In case you feel you already shoot enough and you feel ready to leave for a different (don’t have to be war) ask really yourself what the contexts need in terms of photographic production, not what you need as photographer, from a specific situation.
Ah, and yeah..that Zoriah Haiti ..thing.. was quite crazy..

by Luca Tommasini | 04 Feb 2011 11:02 | Rome, Italy | | Report spam→
@Yves – the journalist turned aidworker you refer to is Sarah Chayes, from NPR.

@Nancy – the Basetrack system is designed as an open-source platform to be used in any kind of project – it’s optimized for geo/time coded organization, but it can just as easily be re-skinned and used for “anti-war” reporting, whatever that means – I’m not at all directing this at you, but I tend to be skeptical of the photographers I’ve seen who brand themselves as “anti-war” activists. It’s a nice idea, but in practical terms, it usually seems to translate to a convenient “war-is-bad-and-someone-else-should-do-something-about-it” buck-passing maneuver.

by teru kuwayama | 04 Feb 2011 14:02 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
@Teru – Sorry Teru, i’m not sure i understood the concept of Anti-war photographers activist?..Does exist some pro-war photographers?..beside the friendly provocative jokes, i’m agree with you totally in what’s happening in the reality and i would add that this approach “war-is-bad-and-someone-else-should-do-something-about-it” seems rooted unfortunately in our western culture, and i guess is exactly the kind of mentality that each of us face each day (in our specific field of interest, especially media, and with big efforts) and drive us crazy sometimes..

by Luca Tommasini | 04 Feb 2011 15:02 | Rome, Italy | | Report spam→
@ Teru, I recently checked out basetrack and it is a unique experiment/experience that seems to be especially important to the families of the troops.

It is not all that applicable to what Bradley had in mind when he started this. After all, you said you are stacked up with photographers who want to participate- you are not looking for people. My entire point of posting was to familiarize photographers with the writing of Chris Hedges who I worked with often at the Times. He was a veteran war correspondent whose general thesis is that for many people," war provides a purpose for living; it seems to allow the individual to rise above regular life and perhaps participate in a noble cause." He then explodes that myth. This is from the book “War is a Force That Gives Life Meaning” It struck me that this seems to be the poster’s intention to rise above his own mundane everyday life, and put himself in the midst of war without any clear indication of what he wants to do and why.
And I agree with Mark, there is no level playing in the dissemination of information- you know that and I know that. Even when I worked at the Times, editors would sometimes choose photos that were in accord with their version of the “news”
Since basetrack is open source I wish photographers would look to re-skin it as you said to create something truly open with all points of views expressed.

by [former member] | 04 Feb 2011 19:02 | Brooklyn, United States | | Report spam→
@Teru Thank you. I have send a message to NPR wondering if they have any contact with her and if she’s still in Afghanistan.

Is there any contests that the winning photos are not relate to war or disaster? There might be some but not so many I guess as I don’t remember any. Oh ya sport category.

by Yves Choquette | 05 Feb 2011 02:02 | Montreal, Canada, Canada | | Report spam→
@Yves – you can also read her book, “The Punishment of Virtue”


by teru kuwayama | 05 Feb 2011 10:02 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
@nancy : I don’t disagree with you – war has a distinct tendency to attract boys in search of manhood. That psychological profile is equally common in warfighters, war photographers, and notably, in recent “war presidents”.

There’s a lot of worse-than-useless embedded journalism, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s not nearly enough that’s done well – and a lot of the anti-embed sentiment strikes me a misdirected aggression from “anti-war activists” who are projecting frustration with their own inactivity. Again, not pointing the finger at anyone here, just saying there’s a convenient tendency to attack soft targets rather than the hard ones.

@Mark: It’s a curious argument that access to military operations is somehow suppressing your ability to express “the truth”, but if you’re more comfortable with Buzhkashi than ISAF, then by all means, do your thing. But it would be disingenuous to pretend that you are somehow resisting a government censorship plot, or expressing some deeper truth about Afghanistan.

“A level playing field” would be nice. Even better would be a world with sunshine and ice cream every day. Unfortunately, in Afghanistan, suboptimal conditions prevail, and even (or especially) if you don’t approve of military operations, ignoring them isn’t productive.

by teru kuwayama | 05 Feb 2011 11:02 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→

I wasn’t trying to be patronizing (or disingenuous) –

Reporting from any single perspective is limited, whether it’s a military outpost, or a Buzkhashi game. I meant what I said – to each their own, and it is probably more effective to aggregate those perspectives than to assign moral correctness to one or another.

Embedded reporting may unfairly outweigh “unilateral” reporting, but in the case of Basetrack, the ground reporting was always an incidental element in the project, as was the photography.

Your understanding of the Basetrack geo-positioning system isn’t accurate, nor is your understanding of the perceived “opsec” issues entailed.

As you noticed, someone in the Pentagon didn’t agree at all with your assertion that embedded journalism only serves to “suppress the truth”.

Public affairs, incidentally, just completely dropped those Opsec charges.

One of the reasons that the attempt to shut down Basetrack on “opsec” grounds failed so rapidly, is because Basetrack is operated by a team that has decades of experience working the system, from the inside and the outside. It also failed because Basetrack was so fiercely defended by the families of the Marines we’re embedded with.

I’ve said this before – The greatest weakness of embedded journalism isn’t the embedding – it’s the journalists. Too often, they’re so limited in their perspectives, and so inflexible in their attitudes, that they don’t see what’s right in front of their eyes.

As a Lt Colonel that I worked with once said – “it’s not even about access, most journalists just don’t know what they’re looking at. “

Or as another officer put it, long ago: “If you wish for peace, understand war.”

We’re learning.

And by the way – I don’t have any quarrel with anti-war activists – I just think a lot of them should get more active, and more creative.

by teru kuwayama | 10 Feb 2011 15:02 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I can’t believe the bickering is still continuing in this thread, it keeps filling up my inbox with notifications.

I think we can all agree that the embedding system is far from ideal and that reporting the war from multiple angles is important. However, that said, a skilled journalist who understands the system can use the access to report accurately and fairly. I would argue that it is not the propaganda generating cesspool some here are labeling it as.

Granted it would be nice to not have to sign a document limiting/preventing the photographing of topics such as the dead and wounded, in my limited experience embedding I never once had any ISAF individual try to vet, check, or approve any image prior to it’s release. Furthermore, I was granted access to everything I hoped to cover with full cooperation of PAO’s and the officers in the field. Perhaps I was lucky.

Also, I would assume since most participating in this thread are photojournalists who take pride in objectivity, the implied labeling of individuals as “pro-war” or “anti-war” photographers is troubling. I’d be offended if someone labeled me as either.

by Andrew A. Nelles | 10 Feb 2011 16:02 (ed. Feb 10 2011) | Chicago, United States | | Report spam→
Yeah that’s right, fuck it!

by [former member] | 10 Feb 2011 17:02 | Neuchâtel, Switzerland | | Report spam→
Agreed. Although I will just throw in there that nothing is ever objective.

Unless its Maths maybe.

by Saira MacLeod | 10 Feb 2011 18:02 | Nottingham, United Kingdom | | Report spam→
@Saira – there’s also “fuzzy math” and defense contracting math, where the numbers aren’t required to add up.

@Mark – looks like you deleted your posts, but I recall you said something about a level playing field or truthful reporting being impossible because “the die is already cast”. I think that’s the place where we fundamentally disagree. It sounds pretty defeatist to me, but I guess I’m partial to uphill fights.

Anyway, if nothing else comes out of this “bickering”, at least you and Sion finally agree on something.

peace, T

by teru kuwayama | 10 Feb 2011 20:02 (ed. Feb 10 2011) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
@Andrew – I don’t think “pro-war” or “anti-war” labels are necessarily offensive, they just seem kind of meaningless, especially when they aren’t acted on.

by teru kuwayama | 11 Feb 2011 02:02 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I’d agree with that.

by Andrew A. Nelles | 11 Feb 2011 02:02 | Chicago, United States | | Report spam→
Hi Brad,

Nick Morris is right …. wat he is telling are the facts from his experience…. you cant just visit randomly and click pics ….

Why do u want to do it ?? Wat are you going to do with it ? For whom are you going to take these pictures ??

learning first aid courses alone will not help….

learn visual story telling and justify you cause to visit a war zone ….

What is the cause you are going to Afgan ?? just when you are able a justify your cause, you can proceed ….

Amirtharaj Stephen

by Amirtharaj Stephen | 11 Feb 2011 08:02 | Bangalore, Coimbatore, India | | Report spam→
Whatever Teru.

Clearly you do not accept that being embedded is limiting your ability to report objectively, which and (correct me if I am wrong) is the primary objective of any journalist.As you say each to his own.

I deleted my posts because I did not want anything I wrote taken out of context, which happens a lot on Lightstalkers. Something you wrote regarding the NY Times and it’s obligations to photographers was I believe taken out of context.

by [former member] | 12 Feb 2011 09:02 | Neuchâtel, Switzerland | | Report spam→
Mark, that would be a misinterpretation of my comments.

“Embedding provides a particular but extremely limited view of the battlespace.”


In any case, it’s not necessary to take personal offense when people don’t agree with you. In fact, one could argue that talking to people who don’t agree with you is the best way to learn something new – and I’ve seen some very confused armed conflicts that were launched by people who just couldn’t handle hearing opinions they didn’t like.

by teru kuwayama | 12 Feb 2011 12:02 (ed. Feb 12 2011) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
I take no offence from differing opinions but when you make spurious comments based on what other photographers have shot or prefer to shoot and create labels for them ie Anti-War then that is disingenuous and patronizing.People are entitled to their opinions without being labelled as such. I don’t think there is any reference in this post to you or any other photographer who embeds as a military “lackey” which would be totally unfair. Myself and several others have just pointed out that the embed system has one major flaw,being able to report objectively. You may disagree and that’s fine but to say any photographer who does not agree is some kind of hippy peacenik is unfair.

Some photographers have decided to visit Afghanistan and do other stories which may or may not be linked to the ongoing war but feel these stories contribute to the understanding of Afghanistan and it’s culture.

I think that is a fair and measured response which as far as I am concerned is the end of the “bickering”.



by [former member] | 13 Feb 2011 00:02 | Neuchâtel, Switzerland | | Report spam→
Embedding has its constraints and flaws from a journalistic point of view, but objectivity is the wrong criteria to set it apart from other ways of reporting. Objective reporting might be the goal of a journalist, but it is hardly ever achieved, and never when you only report from one side. Be it the military, be it the insurgents, be it the citizens. I don’t think anyone here claims that being embedded with the US military would entitle them to objective reporting on the situation in Afghanistan in general. That would be pretentious, to say at least. But it’s not less or more objective than doing a story on Buzhkashi.

The notion of objectivity as the primary goal of a journalist is oversimplifying and unrealistic. You always have a standpoint. Within the limitations of that standpoint, objectivity should be one important criteria to bet taken into account. A story on Palestinian refugees is not objective. You are taking a side. But, journalistically, you have every right to do that. Same goes for embedding.

Being embedded means you are part of the military’s public relations agenda, yes, but I disagree with the notion that this is by definition bad. The US military’s policy towards journalists covering their operations is probably the most open in any contemporary conflict (just compare it to the conflicting party). Far from perfect, but almost as good as it gets when you wanna report from one party’s side.

Mark, the best way to ensure that your words are not taken out of context is probably to not delete them.

by Daniel Etter | 13 Feb 2011 07:02 | Delhi, India | | Report spam→
Thanks Daniel I’ll bear in mind your advice about removing my posts.

Sorry I don’t agree with you about objectivety.Good journalism is about being objective particularly in war where their are two or more sides to the story.I can’t be bothered to explain why that is important.

by [former member] | 13 Feb 2011 23:02 | Neuchâtel, Switzerland | | Report spam→
Mark.. the most biased people I’ve met were the ones shouting “be objective” at the top of their lungs.

by Humphrey Cheung | 14 Feb 2011 00:02 | Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
@Mark – no offense, but this song isn’t about you. I thought I was pretty clear that I was “not pointing the finger at anyone here”, and I’m certainly not accusing anyone of being an “anti-war activist” (Seinfeld: not that there’s anything wrong with that)

Anyway, I haven’t seen your horse pictures, but for what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure they don’t constitute any kind of anti-war statement.

Last note, this line was so priceless, that I felt compelled to rescue it before you delete it:

“Good journalism is about being objective particularly in war where their are two or more sides to the story. I can’t be bothered to explain why that is important.”

It’s a little bit too long to inscribe on my helmet, but if nothing else, I’m sending it as a memo to the Basetrack team to boost their morale.

by teru kuwayama | 14 Feb 2011 03:02 (ed. Feb 14 2011) | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
OK Teru

Let’s just agree to disagree. It was never my intention to personalise this debate. With regards to that priceless phrase you can in scribe it on your helmet,body armour or anywhere else but you will need to pay me for a licence to do that. Or if you want November Eleven can emboss it on a T-Shirt.Any revenue from the sale of the T-Shirts on Lightstalkers can go to a charitable cause. Of course there will be a fee but I can do a special because it’s for charity.

As were on the subject of body armour: Humphrey have you taken yours off since you got home from Bangkok?

by [former member] | 14 Feb 2011 09:02 | Neuchâtel, Switzerland | | Report spam→
For all: let’s support Giles Duley, please.

by Monika Bulaj | 14 Feb 2011 09:02 | trst, Italy | | Report spam→
@Mark – I actually go jogging with it to build up my cardio.

Things are heating up again.. I’m scheduled back next month. So many choices, Cambodia border, Yala or Bangkok.

by Humphrey Cheung | 15 Feb 2011 04:02 | Los Angeles, United States | | Report spam→
@Mark, right on. it’s all good, I’m just messin’ – and speaking of charitable causes, does anyone know more about Giles Duley and his situation, if he was on assignment for someone, etc? I was just having a conversation with some people about a fundraising effort for Joao Silva, but he’s certainly not the only one in need of support.

by teru kuwayama | 16 Feb 2011 15:02 | New York City, United States | | Report spam→
@bradley I understand the pull one feels toward this work, I have felt it since I began taking pictures. I identify as a photojournalist, I am young, and many times I have had the impulse to just jump in, knowing I have what it takes, if only I was there. Then I remember the packed you make with your subjects when you take on a project and when your allowed in, when your trusted. You take on a responsibility to actually, truthfully tell they’re story. Each time I come to the brink I ask myself “can you give voice this.” This requires not only looking at personal passion and fiancees, but experience, skill set, contacts and asking “what can I show thats different.”

Bradley, I feel ya man, but there was a lot of good advice in this thread that I think you should take seriously. Also, I would reemphasize the suggestion that you look within yourself to find what inspires and drives you, why and for what purpose? This will help you answer many of your own questions.

Personally, I’ve been working toward this work for awhile, I have the singles, I have a few contacts and some experience, i’m working on my story telling while trying to figure out the next move toward a career that seems to have become an ever moving and shrinking target. But, I’m determined…and poor…you can check out my work @ www.iantom.com

and thank you to whoever posted the Rory Peck training fund….

by Jansen | 16 Feb 2011 19:02 | Burlington, VT, United States | | Report spam→

Did you ever get the embed information you were seeking? I haven’t checked the board lately and it was interesting reading this thread. A couple months ago I posted a message about an advertisement placed by a photographer named Jason P. Howe asking for an assistant willing to come to Afghanistan and work for FREE.


If you read the thread you’ll see there were actually a few posts, likely from friends of Mr. Howe, saying “sounds like a great opportunity” while it seems like all the replies to your message are against you going.

Did someone send you the ISAF embed info and what decision did you make?

And as for going unembedded, keep in mind that a tourist from Canada who was backpacking in Afghanistan is currently being held by the Taliban.

by David Campbell | 04 Mar 2011 07:03 (ed. Mar 4 2011) | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
Hello David,

I do not have any issue with criticism I only ask that those doing it have a good base of facts and do not misquote my Face Book post. The reason I posted the original request on Face Book not on Light Stalkers was that it was an invitation to people I know or who had previously been in touch with me not to the photography world in general.

Anyone who does know me and my work from the past decade in conflict zones around the word would know certain facts about me that have not been taken into account by yourself or many of the folks replying to your thread.

Let me clear up a few points for you since you seem to have an enduring interest in this issue.

The post did not at any point say that anyone would be required to work for FREE.

Quote: There is no salary as such but all expenses including airfare, internal travel,food, accommodation and security will be covered. This should be viewed as a learning opportunity rather than a money making opportunity.

So this was in fact a fully paid 3 month trip to Afghanistan with everything covered ie visa costs, travel, accommodation, food and security, this amounted to several thousand dollars. Additionally the assistant received a daily stipend which in this case meant they went home with considerably more than they had been earning in their regular job in the UK. Also because they did an exceptional job they received a bonus.

The post clearly stated that it was a COMMERCIAL shoot. NOTHING to do with conflict, embeds, walking through mine fields etc…. I have never heard of anyone taking an assistant into such an environment , ones own personal safety is enough to deal with in such hostile environments without being responsible for someones else’s. Assumptions have been jumped to and conclusions reached without anyone actually checking the facts prior to voicing their opinions.

There are many many thousands of ex pats working here in Afghanistan in every job you can imagine. Of course everywhere in Afghanistan there are security concerns it is not by any stretch of the imagination a ‘safe’ place but here in Kabul for example there is a vibrant social scene, we have a British pub, Chinese, Thai, Croatian and 2 French restaurants and on and on, people go to the gym, there is a running club, we have house parties. There are so many aspects to life here that people who have never been here have no idea about. Ski trips are pretty popular at the moment since have had a decent dump of snow recently. There are parts of this country that tourist regularly visit and are and have been almost completely untouched by the decades of conflict.

Yes there are occasional kidnappings and suicide bomb attacks but this is true of rather a lot of places nowadays, many of which no one would ever label as being war zones. Kabul is not Helmand or Kandahar. It is a bustling wonderful city of 5 million plus people with whom we interact on a daily basis. One tries to maintain a reasonable low profile and reduce the risks of living in a sometimes hostile and volatile environment as much as possible.

Given the amount of investment there is in this country for construction, telecommunications and so on there are commercial photographic opportunities. This particular job happened to be a 50 day shoot for a telecom shoot with the focus being on the culture, food, religion, ethnic groups etc in as many parts of the country that after a rigorous risk assessment were deemed safe enough to visit. The assessment was ongoing and as the situation changed in some of the locations we were due visit they were removed from our program.

The large companies here take their security very seriously and do not permit anyone contracted to them to take any un-necesary risks even if one were so inclined. Obviously the risks one has to take during news coverage are very different to the risks one would be prepared to take for a commercial or advertising job.

Travel to the provinces was done by air and we stayed in secure accommodation provided by the company we were shooting for.

I have never needed an assistant prior to this and never had a big enough budget to be able pay someone and cover all their expenses I this way. I do however receive emails pretty frequently asking if I have internships available which as stated given the normal nature of my work is not a realistic possibility. I also receive a few emails a week from photographers asking advice on coming to and working in Afghanistan.

There are a lot of photographers who would love to visit this amazing country but either cannot find and assignment nor self fund such a trip or have valid concerns about security and the realities of working in such a place.

My thoughts therefore were that if I could fund all of that and send the person home with money in their pocket and hopefully quite a bit of very useful knowledge then that in exchange for helping me with data management and listening to me moaning when thing were not going according to plan it would be quite a good trade.

I received a lot of interest in the opportunity both via Face Book and then after your post from people who saw it on Light Stalkers and quite possibly were clever enough to spot that it was a commercial assignment and perhaps had a better than average grasp of the realities of working in this country. Many of the folks who applied were not suitable, some I suspected were far better photographers than I and others I could tell, despite some of my comments here were not considering that without question coming out here is a serious undertaking.

I therefore was very careful in my selection and ended up inviting a photographer who I had actually met here in Afghanistan a few years ago and had met up with since. They therefore had at least a basic understanding of the country, the cultural issue to be faced, the security situation and I felt they might just be able to put up with spending 3 months working with me.

At the conclusion of the shoot they left having had an opportunity to travel widely throughout the country and to shoot a vast array of subjects. they learned how to put together from a client’s brief a very complex 50 day commercial shoot, how to manage a budget, a team of drivers and fixers and deal every type of problem and disaster of the kinds that arise everyday during such an assignment. They learned a lot about workflow, managing the clients expectations, dealing with the cultural issues that we faced and so on. They also managed to pick up a paid assignment of their own from contacts made whilst here.

All in all I find it hard to see any of this as exploitative. Certainly I feel that accusations of putting anyone in danger are misplaced. There are young photographers arriving here in Afghanistan regularly with far less knowledge than my assistant had when they joined and now has after working here for 3 months with me.

I have gained my experience the hard way. After a few self funded ( I stacked shelves in a supermarket between trips, before any accusations of trust funds start getting thrown around) years of learning on the ground covering the conflict in Colombia I arrived in Baghdad in December 2003 on a one way ticket, without any contacts, promises of work or guarantees and with $500 hidden in each boot. My first story was the capture of Saddam which happen a few days after my arrival. Somehow I survived and left a year later with $100,000 in my pocket (not literally, it was in the bank) having managed to work for every major British newspaper,Time, Newsweek, etc.. and completed a 90 day assignment for the New York Times. I continued to work in Iraq for several years before relocating to Afghanistan in 2007.

I would not really recommend that approach, necessarily, it happened to work out for me and has done for others but there is of course the potential for it to have gone horribly wrong. I have been fortunate enough from that dubious start to have remained in fairly constant work in very interesting place for a wide range of great clients for the last 7 years. Of course there are many up’s and downs it has not been an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination.

Many, many photographers helped me out when I was getting started from scratch and I have always felt hugely appreciative for their advice and assistance. There are a great many photographers out there looking for ways to get into the industry, looking for a break and if I am able to offer some opportunity or advice based on the experience I have gained I am very happy to do so and I know many of my colleagues feel the same.

There is no obligation for anyone to take up an opportunity I offer and if anyone views learning how to find and successfully complete a 50 day commercial shoot either beneath them or exploitative then they are welcome not to be involved. I am glad they are photographically and financially successful enough to not have to entertain the possibility of exploring new possibilities. I do think there are though quite a few folks out there who would welcome such opportunities.

I hope I have answered the questions and concerns raised by your post. I am sure someone will have enough time on their hands to find something I have missed and more things to criticise but I do not wish to get into a debate about the subject, there is work to be done and photographs to be made and a life to be lived.

I would suggest and ask that before putting up posts that are rather accusative in nature it would be respectful to make sure that some thing is known about the person and subject involved including at least the basic facts and as much context as possible.

A brief email or PM to me at the time could have clarified a lot.

Given that I have had a good friend murdered here last year whilst working a doctor, several colleagues kidnapped over the years, a photographer friend recently severely wounded and know of another British photographer who has suffered horrendous injuries only a few weeks ago the subject of security and risk taking is very close to home.

I hope I have clarified the two main points, I was not and did not seek to take an intern/ assistant to the battle fields of Afghanistan and they did NOT work for FREE.

I am preparing to leave for a 2 week assignment in Helmand Province with British Forces tomorrow and just wanted to try and provide some context to this post/thread. I hope I wont regret taking the time to do so.

Incidentally insurance is a subject that get mentioned a lot. I will put up a separate post about an excellent and very affordable insurance cover offered by Insurance Without Borders in collaboration with Reporters without Borders, they offer full medivac cover and death and dismemberment compensation for war zones at reasonable rates.

Best regards,



by [former member] | 04 Mar 2011 14:03 (ed. Mar 4 2011) | Kabul, Afghanistan | | Report spam→

Nothing was misquoted. The original post and discussion was based on an advertisement by you, actually. It is relevant to Bradley’s discussion and the debate of going into a conflict area.

Your argument is that you can say a job is “fully paid” if you pay for someone’s transportation, housing, and food but don’t actually give them any money. I understand you need to salvage your reputation after making the mistake of advertising for someone to work in Afghanistan for free (which most people define as not being paid which is what you advertised). If you re-read your post, you will see that it says exactly that. It is slightly bizarre that you quote your own ad that says no salary and then say it is “fully paid” because transportation, etc. is covered. This is simply irrational.

If I went up to someone and said, “This is a fully paid job and you won’t be working for free but I’m not going to give you any money for your work” people would say that is delusional. It’s great that you ended up changing the position to provide some per diem but I can only wonder if the debate here was influential. Something like a daily stipend would have been mentioned in your ad and I don’t see it there. Even Zoriah changed his Haiti workshop later to say part was going to charity.

It’s nice that Kabul expats ski, you made $100,000 in a year, you once worked in a supermarket, you’re going to Helmand, etc but none of that seems relevant to the issues brought up in either post. Again, I understand the need for you to salvage your reputation by throwing in some bio information but the issue of exploitation such as getting someone to work for free in a difficult area is the topic of the first post and the nature of going into a combat zone is the topic of Bradley’s post.

And while you try to claim that Afghanistan is safe, you start contradicting yourself with your points on security and my favorite quote:

“Yes there are occasional kidnappings and suicide bomb attacks but this is true of rather a lot of places nowadays, many of which no one would ever label as being war zones.”

We’ll have to agree to disagree. I will copy this to both posts as you have but had no intention of bringing up again the discussion of your advertisement for someone to work in Afghanistan for free.

by David Campbell | 05 Mar 2011 04:03 | Bangkok, Thailand | | Report spam→
I am retired military and I did some time in the middle east between wars. I am photographer who has a passion for a good visual story. Yet you don’t see me packing up and heading into the battle zone. There is enough to do as a combatant to keep yourself alive and free from new holes in your body or keeping all of the parts that grew when you were first born.

I have given the thought to idea don’t get me wrong. I also have a story to go with the thought, yet at this stage of my life I am not willing to accept the worst case scenario coming back in a metal box on a C17.

Pretty much anyone that hasn’t been a combat photog or even in some hot zones doesn’t have a place embedding with the military. I wont say what I would think about my feeling if the photographer contributed to the injury or death of one of my brothers in arms.

I didn’t read through all of this lengthly discussion but it’s a BAD IDEA Dude!

by Ed Hamlin | 11 Mar 2011 00:03 | California, United States | | Report spam→

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