Mike Moore and Lee Craker – Imperial War Museum, London

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.


5 Responses to Mike Moore and Lee Craker – Imperial War Museum, London

  1. Catherine says:

    I hadn’t heard of Mike Moore before either Eddy. Have checked out his website and his work is certainly impressive.

  2. Eddy Lerp says:

    Glad to know I wasn’t the only one. I agree, his work is very good for that genre.

  3. Lee says:

    Hello, I stumbled upon your blog this evening and your comments on Mike Moore prompted me to reply. Mike’s work is nothing short of fantastic. I would love to see him get all the attention and credit he deserves.
    Because of who I am I need to comment on your criticism of my work only because it may seem strange if I was here and said nothing.
    I can totally agree with your comments. Does that sound strange from the photographer? lol – I have often said that the images I made in Iraq could have been made anywhere. They just so happened to be made in a war zone. The level of difficulty in making the images is irrelevant to the final product. I am very grateful for the attention they have received, but that was not the reason they were made in the first place. It may help to look at the images as they were intended, as gifts for soldiers, and very importantly, a means to keep my sanity while trapped behind the walls of HQ for 3 years with the only excitement being rocket attacks a few times a month. Mike’s work was for press, to tell a story, which he so excellently did. My work was not to tell the story of a war, only to show soldiers in a way in which they perceived themselves, as warriors. So they could have a memory to take home with them from Iraq, something unusual, something no one else had done or was doing. The important thing for me personally was – I was keeping my brain and camera active, keeping me from going totally stir crazy, It helped keep me from going totally insane. The interesting thing is that I am not, nor do I want to be a portrait photographer, but I made portraits. My work today is much more reflective of who I am as a photographer. If you get the time visit my website and you may enjoy the contrast of what I do vs what I did in Iraq. Lastly, thank you for your comments, Your criticism was fair and I appreciate your honesty. Thanks again, Lee Craker

    • Eddy Lerp says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read what I had to say Lee and for not taking offence.

    • Considering that I was a member of the Public Affairs Staff who had the privilege to work beside Mr. Craker, I cannot help but take a little offense to having my wartime service reduced to avoiding “flying paper clips.” Your ignorance of our occupation has become insult, considering that many PA staff were tasked with escorting media to some not-so-cushy spots beyond the REMF zone of comfort. Media, of course, not wishing to only report on life inside the Green Zone, required us to travel with and work beside our infantry counterparts, accompanying them on patrols and other missions, doing different tasks, but often sharing the same risk.
      Please note that there was also no particular area we considered the “rear” during my deployment. Many of my fellow “non-grunt” servicemembers lost their lives at the base where we were stationed. It is quite ironic that even the makeshift photo studio utilized by Mr.Craker had, itself, been hit by incoming rockets.
      I do not dare presume that my job shared a daily level of risk comparable to those Soldiers who endured regular patrols or direct enemy contact, but I felt obligated to point out the errors of your assumptions.
      I also wish to personally thank Mr. Craker for supplying me with such a gift that I could share with my family upon my return home.

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