billputnam's blog

304th ING

 
Southern Baghdad Aug. 1, 2004
Junedis during a search operation south of Baghdad Aug. 1, 2004.
I spent most of 2004 and 2005 as an Army photog in southern Baghdad. A lot of that time (most, in fact) out in the field with the grunts and converted treadheads fighting the growing and incessant insurgency. The first rumblings of sectarian violence started there too.

Some of that time I spent with the 304th Iraqi National Guard Battalion, a sometimes ill-equipped and semi-competent rabble of Iraqis who were there for a variety of reasons. Those reasons were, to me, examples of the stark choices in life that freedom brought to them after April 9, 2003. A small number English and they told me in halting words they they served because they either needed a job or felt like something larger was at stake for Iraq. With unemployment hovering at 50 percent and that growing insurgency, there wasn't any middle ground in their reasons.

Being out there with them was always an adventure. You never really knew what to expect and anything could happen. Often times nothing more than a few slaps. Occassionally something exploded and I was treated to a death blossom.

What I did see, while a little unorganized despite the monumental efforts of the American advisors to train them, was a motivated (at least in the Iraqi sense) groupe of men -- especially the battalion's B & C Companies. I have no idea if the men I photographed are still in the 304th. Many IA units had problems with pay problems, lack of working equipment and motivation, etc etc.

 

Dec. 5, 2004 -- Southern Baghdad
A detained man pleads with an Iraqi junedi from the 304th ING during a search operation in southern Baghdad Dec. 5, 2004.
July 18, 2004 -- Baghdad
A junedi during a search operation in southern Baghdad July 18, 2004.

 

Thinking about switching.

Last week (I think) I talked about missing my Nikon F4. What that "longing" (or whatever you want to call it) actually is this: full frame. Don't get me wrong, I love Nikon D-SLRs, have been since 2000 in Kosovo. I picked up a D1 and had the camera set up with in two hours without using the manual.

A few years later I'm a civilian professional here in Iraq. I'm using two Nikon D-SLRS. A lot of other professionals are using Canon. Two others here I've met, Franco and Scott, are using Nikon. So maybe there's something to using Nikon.

But... I miss full frame. I shot with an F4 here in 2004. I'd switch lenses between my D1X and F4. I have Kodakhrome at home of some shots with the 17-35 on the F4. The 17 at FF is amazing!

Canon D-SLRS, the high-value models anyway, have FF. The new 5D is a sweet little camera. It has FF. Even the ISO is great at high settings.

Then I found out a company makes adaptor rings for Leica R-lenses to Canon SLRs, including their D-SLRs. So... I've pretty much made up my mind.

Until Nikon releases a FF D-SLR and that company makes the adaptor rings to fit, I will be switiching from Nikon to Canon so I can use Leica R-lenses. Hopefully, Nikon makes a FF camera.

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Video

I've started posting short videos to my blog. It's something I've had in mind for a while, I just now found a way of hosting it. Most of it will be mundane like driving in a Humvee. Some of it may be exciting like a firefight or house raid.

One of the first things I posted was the audio I recorded along with the Day of Bang Bang photos in my gallery here. It helps explain the chaos of that day in Baghdad. Most of us here know it but people back home don't.

The ther video I put out was shot during that first aid class in Munjama. I think it was a sign of the times when they taught those girls how to apply a torniquet. It turns out they were taught that before.

My intent is to add another view or perspective to the ground level of the war here, in other words to add flavor to the stills I post there.

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Two cameras.

I may sound like some raving lunatic here but... I wish I had one of my Nikon F4s and a Holga here with me. I know, I know you're probably asking why. I don't even know myself. Nostalgia, maybe?

I loved shooting Tri-X through them. I carried one of each in Baggers in 2004. Now they're sitting at home, collecting dust. Maybe they'll be employed the next war I photograph.

Ugh.

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Poll

Which Photo Agency Is Hardest To Deal With? (Please use the comment section to address some of the issues you see.)
Getty
29%
Corbis
7%
Sipa
5%
Blackstar
4%
WireImage
6%
Panos
1%
Agency VU
2%
Lookat Photos
4%
VII
6%
Magnum
11%
Aurora
1%
Gamma
5%
WPN
5%
Zuma Press
8%
Polaris
5%
Total votes: 690
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