JIM MACMILLAN WENT to Iraq because he wanted to be a part of that story, to show the world what was happening there. He was influenced by the Vietnam-era images that changed the tide of public sentiment and he wanted to do something similar in Iraq.
He had spent two decades honing his craft as a photojournalist prior to going to the Middle East. He attended hostile environment training in preparation, learning about weapons and crisis situations.
"I thought I was ready," he said yesterday in class. "I had no idea what I was in for."
During his year covering the war as a photojournalist with the Associated Press, Jim survived three roadside attacks, two car bomb explosions, a kidnapping attempt and a bullet that struck his helmet. Plus he slept on cardboard (when he was lucky), spent days on end in a cramped Bradley Fighting Vehicle, he lost 40 pounds because of the intense heat and unusual food, and he became friendly with numerous members of the military who were killed in action.
"The cost of war is incalculable," he said.
What he witnessed has had a psychological impact on him, and he studies the impact of war journalism on the public. Everyone is impacted differently - for some, seeing violent images desensitizes them to such atrocities. For others, it pushes them to take action. And there are countless reactions in between.
"We can't seem to agree if we need more war coverage or less," he said.
Here are a few other things he said that stood out to me:
• Being embedded with the troops was "like seeing life through a straw, incomplete."
• But by the time he arrived in Iraq, it wasn't safe to travel alone as a Western journalist.
• He rode on 225 combat missions, ranging from 5 minutes to two weeks, though most lasted around 2 hours.
• There was constant stress - sniper fire and attacks while with troops, and from his apartment, he could hear shelling.
• Because he was with troops so often, he formed friendships with many soldiers. But he was still able to craft images that were objective, he said.
• When he became too comfortable with a unit, he traveled with a different unit.
• Other Associated Press photographers documented the insurgents.
• Jim and a team of AP photographers were awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the most prestigious award in print journalism, for their coverage. "You can't celebrate the award," he said. "I feel relieved but it doesn't get you anywhere."
• He started as an art school student. Then he got a police scanner and started freelancing spot news to newspapers in Boston.
• In recent years, he has developed video skills.
• He's also very engaged in social networking.
What stood out for you?
6 months ago