Capturing the war in cameras

(Excerpt from Jake Warga's interview with Photojournalism Chief Joseph Kane)

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

��real borderline on the exposure here, it's almost overblown, we still have some detail, but be careful.�

�My name is MCC, that's Mass Communication specialist Chief Joseph Kane, I'm the photojournalism chief for combat camera Pacific.�

Kane is reviewing images his soldiers brought back from a training mission earlier in the day.

�We missed the exposure, and when you've blown details out you're not going to get them back.�

A major component in current conflicts is the war over information, and combat cameramen are in the front lines. They document battles for the historical archives, every image going into the pentagon's library

�The bulk of our imagery doesn't get seen until maybe fifty years when it's declassified or whatever.�

But they also shoot for field strategy review and press releases. Some photos even end-up on Facebook to keep family and friends back home up to date. The military learned early on the power of the photo, that the camera can be a weapon:

�The Vietnam thing and how a piece of information or some imagery can turn the public sentiment, so it is an information war. I think the leaders understand that now �which is why this unit has so many missions now, that basically every six months we're turning around, going back out the door.�

�What's your primary mission? Someone tell me? Your primary mission is to bring back imagery. They only hire us to go out on these jobs because we know how to use a camera not because we're good at weapons, the weapons just enable us to be there and to integrate.�

(weapons sounds) �Give me a thumbs up, you guys good to go�

But they are good at weapons, very good, and much of their training involves taking turns between weapon proficiency and photographing. In this exercise, soldiers shoot at targets inside a mock village with both their rifles and Nikons, we're all wearing earplugs. The cardboard image of a gun-pointing terrorist hiding in one room did not survive the mock raid.

�I've been deployed to Iraq twice. There are some disturbing images, but I don't know that I necessarily don't want to remember them. I can do without some of the bloody gory things that come back, where maybe something happened, I don't try to recall those very much even though some of them do stick there. Whether it's our guys or their guys, to see human beings, human bodies is always difficult.

How do I live with the fact that I'm out there taking pictures, and this is what I'm risking my life for essentially, what is the importance of me being there? I think everybody probably agrees that we don't want, we don't want war, but� it keeps happening, and as long as it keeps happening it's important that we have people who are going to document that. There's certainly no magic button that I have access to that can stop the cycle.�