Sean Smith – Iraq

I’ve been privileged to hear Guardian photographer Sean Smith show and talk about his work in person, and you can do so on as a part of the French Cultural TV network Arte’s IRAK – 10 years, 100 viewpoints available on-line in French, German and English.

This is a incredibly impressive and wide-ranging web documentary project on the 10 years since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and I’ve only so far had time to look at a little of it. It aims to let the people of Iraq speak, and “The goal is to get the facts straight from the source and home in on an undeniably less “West-centred” perspective than usual.”

Smith’s contribution has some stunning images along with his own low-key dead-pan commentary, which puts the work into context, and avoids the kind of glamorisation of horror which I’ve sometimes felt – for example – in World Press Photo exhibitions. His is a view from the position of the ordinary people – both the people of Iraq and also of the US soldiers he got to know as he shared their experience, walking “a mile in their shoes” on patrol and in camp.

Also from the Guardian is cartoonist Steve Bell, and talking and showing how his work laid bare the lies told by Bush and Blair. His is powerful work, memorable and unfortunately only too true, but although I respond to it warmly, there is something about the ordinariness of photography that for me at least leaves a more lasting residue.

But there is so much more on the site to explore and appreciate (enjoy is perhaps not an appropriate word), and although I’ve peeked at a few other sections I haven’t yet had time to look properly. Feel free to comment about both the parts of the site I’ve mentioned and those I’ve so far missed. And thanks to David Hoffman for sharing Sean Smith’s  “masterpiece of photography, courage and endurance” on Facebook.

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