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Sebastian Meyer January 23, 2014

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Iraq, Kurdistan.
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Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers carry the coffin of an unknown Kurd who had been exhumed
from a mass grave. Erbil, Iraq 2008

Sebastian Meyer (b. 1980, United States) started working as a photographer in his home town of New York in 2004. Later that year, he moved to the UK and worked in Manchester and London till 2009 when he relocated to Northern Iraq where he helped set up Metrography, the first Iraqi photo agency. Sebastian’s work has been published by Time Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine, FT Magazine, Monocle, and other international publications. He’s also made films for National Geographic, Channel 4 News, The Guardian, and PBS. His awards include 1st Place at the Exposure Awards as well as being included in the Magenta Emerging Photographer Flash Forward Exhibition.

About the Photograph:

“I first went to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2008 on assignment for a British film company that was making a series of documentaries about the 1988 Anfal campaign during which Saddam Hussein killed thousands of Iraqi Kurds. My job was to take stills that would eventually be cut into the films and later would be used in a Kurdish history and culture museum which the Kurdish government was building in the capital, Erbil. For six weeks I traveled around the region visiting different villages and meeting and photographing survivors of Anfal.”

“I took this photograph at the Erbil airport during a “repatriation” ceremony. About 50 bodies had been exhumed from a mass grave in southern Iraq and taken back up north for reburial. On that rainy day, each of the 50 bodies had been placed in separate coffins which were then individually wrapped in Kurdish flags. One by one, four Peshmerga (Kurdish soldiers) carried the coffins onto the tarmac and laid them out in rows. In the background, the president (in the grey coat and red turban) and prime minister (tall with a blue mackintosh and mustache) stood shoulder to shoulder with families of the missing. A year later I moved to Iraqi Kurdistan where I’ve been living on and off ever since. Easily the most fascinating aspect of the region is its impassioned historical drive to create its unique identity of Kurdistan. But what makes up that identity is extremely complex. Part of it is geography. Part of it is artistic culture such as music, dancing, and poetry. But part of it is also victimhood. This photograph is part of project that looks at the creation of a modern Iraqi Kurdish identity where wealth, independence, and youth clash with poverty, victimhood, and tradition.”

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