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Jacob Russell July 8, 2015

Posted by Geoffrey Hiller in Iraq, Kurdistan.
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A Peshmerga soldier sleeps on the outskirts of the city of Kirkuk, Iraq 2014

Jacob Russell (b. 1984, United Kingdom) is a freelance photographer and journalist based in the Middle East. He works internationally focusing on the northern Iraqi Kurdish regionHis photographs have been published in the Guardian, the Times of London, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, USA Today and CNN, among others. His video work has appeared on NBC.com and Time.com and he has also published written work in  Al Jazeera English and Roads & Kingdoms. Jacob is also a regular contributor to Raw Music International covering stories that center on music around the world. He currently lives in Lebanon.

About the Photograph:

“In June last year I had been living in Iraqi Kurdistan for a year and a half when the Islamic State suddenly took Mosul and most of northern Iraq. While everyone who lived and worked in Iraq knew that the situation was coming to a boiling point, the speed and scope of IS’s advance was still shocking. The disputed areas of northern Iraq are claimed by both the Kurds and Baghdad, and when the Iraqi army collapsed and withdrew from these areas, the Kurdish Peshmerga rushed in gleefully. This photo was taken on a base outside Kirkuk, in the disputed areas, which had fallen into the Peshmerga’s hands a couple of weeks previously. A commander had come to the meet General Sherko, whose men occupied the base, and his escort took the opportunity to get half an hours sleep away from the merciless heat outside.”

“The year of conflict that has passed since then has changed the Peshmerga but at that point they were hardly a professional army. With little weaponry, training or fighting experience they were mostly young men with a lot of fighting spirit and not much else. Commander Sherko was killed some months later defending the same base from an Islamic State assault.”

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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