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Christoph Bangert September 14, 2009

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Iraq.

Sandstorm, Baghdad, Iraq 2006

Christoph Bangert (b. 1978, Germany) graduated from ICP in 2003. In 2002 he shipped an old Landrover from Germany to Buenos Aires and in six months, drove from Argentina, 22,000 miles to New York City. The resulting photos of the trip were published in his first book titled Travel Notes. (powerHouse 2007) He has been covering the Iraq war since  2005 for the New York Times. His work from Iraq is collected in: “IRAQ: The Space Between”. He has exhibited in Germany, New York and at the Musee de L’Elysee in Switzerland where he was selected as one of 50 emerging photographers for an exhibit and book titled: reGeneration (Thames & Hudson 2005; Aperture 2006). Christoph was chosen as one of PDN’s 30 emerging photographers and for the 2007 Joop Swart Masterclass. He recently returned from a 14 month long overland journey with his Land Rover across Africa.

About the Photograph:

“I took this picture while I was on assignment for The New York Times in Iraq. One day a huge sandstorm swept across Baghdad and the fine dust in the air turned everything bright yellow and orange. This is one of the few pictures I was able to take in public on the streets of Baghdad between 2005 and 2006. During this time kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners forced the few western journalists that remained in Iraq to travel with armed Iraqi escorts and cautiously plan every trip ahead of time. Most neighborhoods were completely off limits for outsiders. Wandering the streets and taking pictures openly became unthinkable. Occasionally I received requests from western publications to take pictures of daily life in Baghdad. I always struggled to explain that this probably was the single most dangerous assignment in the world for a foreign photographer at the time.” 

“Sandstorm days in Baghdad always feel a bit like blizzard days in New York City. Everything moves a bit more slowly, many shops are closed and traffic almost comes to a halt. In an odd way the city feels safer for a few hours while the storm lasts, as if the normal rules don’t apply. This picture was printed on the front page of The New York Times a day later. Four columns, above the fold. I was greatly surprised when I saw this, considering the unusual angle and odd color of the image. Later the picture ended up in my photo book about Iraq. Sometimes I am astonished myself that it was at all possible to publish a book with material that was shot in Iraq by a western photographer during these years. The limitations and difficulties were just so great. It was easy to be overwhelmed and frustrated at times, but then, suddenly, you got a break. Once it came in the form of a sandstorm.”

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