Bill Putnam Photographs, Iraq September-November 2005

I’m bringing these pictures back to the top because Bill Putnam has emailed me information about them that is worth sharing.  Earlier I had written that they were from 2007-2008.  As you will read, I was off by several years.  I wrote that they were grim-but-beautiful artifacts from a grim, not-beautiful time.  I wasn’t wrong about that.  Below are Bill’s comments:

The photos were taken in Iraq during my time there as a freelancer between September and November 2005. The top two were shot during a stay with a Stryker company in eastern Mosul, around the walls of Ninevah. The bottom was made on Bayji Island near Bayji, Iraq.

A bit about each… It’s funny you picked three of my favorites from that time.

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The top one was made fairly early in the morning after an all-night raid. The unit, Centurion Company, 2-1 Infantry, had been sent out with an SF team and bunch of Iraqi Army to hunt down a car bomb builder. They didn’t find him. This was early in the unit’s deployment (they were the guys who were extended in 2006 for three months during an early and not so effective “surge” into northwest Baghdad). To me it says a lot, not really about that war, but just war in general, especially war down at the nasty end of the spear. Hunter, the guy pictured, just looks exhausted. War is exactly that – exhausting in every sense – but this is physical exhaustion. The kid waving the gun (it was unloaded) was actually playing with a newly-installed laser pointer.

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The middle photo was made in a Stryker as the company was heading back from a meeting with an Iraqi police colonel in a precinct. I liked the detail of this kid (I’ve forgotten his name, sorry) as we ride back to the FOB.

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The bottom photo was made during my first week of a two-month embed with Abu Company, 1-187th Infantry. Unlike the first two which were shot digitally, this was shot with black-and-white film on a Leica rangefinder camera. It was early in the morning of the op’s second day. The two guys on the right are Bill and Michael, the platoon’s RTO and doc. The guy off in the distance is Tim, the platoon sergeant. The whole battalion was out there looking for weapon caches, doing what all grunts do in a counter-insurgency (even if we weren’t calling it that back then). If I remember it was cold that morning. We’d spent that night huddled in an abandoned house. The guys were tired and you can see that in Bill and Mike’s body language.

Thanks, Bill, for your photos and your comments.  We look forward to seeing the best of your current work documenting the transition of military responsibility in Afghanistan from US to Afghan control.

Used by permission.

Bill Putnam website: Bill Putnam Photography

Bill Putnam Twitter feed:  @BillPutnamPhoto

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