21st January 2013
At the same time as I went to the Donovan Wylie exhibition at the IWM, London, I was pleased to find another, less well publicised, exhibition on the war in Iraq by Mike Moore and Lee Craker.
I have to admit to being entirely ignorant as to who these photographers were and was very surprised to find that Mike Moore should be someone I should have been aware of. He was the first photographer to officially be embedded with British troops, and the first to cover the entire war in colour. It’s perhaps not surprising that I wasn’t aware of Lee Craker as he spent his entire time in Iraq in the Green Zone with the American Headquarters forces.
When you come to look at the images they created there’s a very great and obvious difference between them and it’s clear to see who saw the action and who didn’t. I think it’s easier to deal with Craker first as his images did not impress and provided no flavour of that war. The entire collection is formed of portraits of the US Armed Forces Public Affairs Office staff and could have been pictures used at any American military installation as a ‘who’s who’ of the personnel. Yes they were all in military camouflage gear, and a lot of them were wearing helmets, presumably to protect them from flying paper-clips, but they were what I think the ‘grunts’ call REMF’s and once you’d seen one, you’d seen them all.
Moore’s images on the other hand do bring you up a bit short. They are obviously out there with the troops, and some where the troops weren’t and he was, with Iraqui reservists, and were the sort you expect to see in the newspapers but don’t, for all sorts of political reasons. I take my hat of to Moore for his enterprise at getting himself around and up close and personal with the action, actually documenting on film an act of heroism from a corporal who won a medal for his action against an Iraqui personnel carrier and its crew. You get a lot of images of the backs of the soldiers and half-profiles ‘cos he was that close following them up and it certainly enables you to imagine the supersonic crack of bullets as they fly pass and the loud, gut thumping explosions of hand grenades and other large weaponry.
I took away an immense respect for Moore and he certainly deserves all the awards he’s won over the past few years just for this work alone.