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Iraq War through a different lens

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"It's real."

That is the biggest compliment Kael Alford has ever received. The comment came from an Iraqi man about Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the Iraq War, a nationally touring photo exhibit currently on display in Odegaard.

Alford and Thorne Anderson, two of the four independent photojournalists who created the exhibit, gave a lecture last night about their experiences, photos and opinions from the civilian standpoint of the Iraq war.

"It's hard to get these stories published because it didn't fit in what people had in their heads - and that was, this is a war of liberation," Anderson said during the lecture about the photos he took immediately following the April 2003 United States-led invasion of Iraq.

The lecture revealed stories from the two photojournalists who witnessed the transformation of Iraq - from the days under Saddam Hussein's regime to the invasion and its aftermath.

"A new identity evolved for the children [of Iraq]," said Alford. "It was 'the United States versus us.'"

The word unembedded refers to the four photographers' independence from the U.S. military. While a majority of journalists from the United States working in Iraq are embedded into the U.S. military cordon for protection and travel, these four photojournalists worked on ground level. Their independence from the U.S. military allowed them to provide an alternative view, outside the mainstream media

The exhibit's comment book at Odegaard reveals the impact of the photos on viewers: "disturbing," "powerful," "stopped me in my tracks," "touching."

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One comment reads: "It's nice to see an exhibit that treats the Iraqi people as human beings rather than abstractions, statistics and faceless sect members."

The photo exhibit was brought to Seattle as a result of efforts initiated by Wendy Johnson, director of health initiatives at Health Alliance International (HAI) and a UW assistant professor. HAI saw the exhibit a year ago in Washington, D.C. and immediately started to organize the exhibit to be displayed in Seattle.

"I wanted to have it in a place where people can see [the photos] outside a normal gallery," Johnson said. "I wanted to find a place to show [the exhibit] before the election because the issues that these representations raise show a side of the war we don't see and are really important for people to consider."

The exhibit discusses the ways in which war impacts health through a perspective beyond the casualties and injuries. Sanitation, power generation and water sources diminish as a result of destruction by air strikes. This comes in addition to deteriorating conditions from sanctions placed on Iraq prior to the war.

The exhibit is a result of a collective effort of sponsors from HAI, various UW departments, local peace groups, student organizations and individual donors.

Also compiled into a book, the photos will be displayed in Odegaard through Dec. 6; the exhibit includes more than 60 photos spread throughout the first, second and third floors.

Reach reporter Emily Lee at

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