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Original author: 
David Pescovitz

During World War II, the US Army deployed a "tactical deception unit" to Europe. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, aka the "Ghost Army," consisted of artists, ad directors, actors, and other creative folks who used inflatable tanks, sound effects trucks, and good ol' fashioned bullshit to trick the German forces. It included the likes of fashion designer Bill Blass, fine artist Elsworth Kelly, and photographer Art Kane. A documentary about the Ghost Army, directed by Rick Beyer, aired last month on PBS. You can watch it for free right here! The Ghost Army story would make for a great black comedy too! The Ghost Army (Thanks, Bob Pescovitz!)    

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VICE Loves Magnum: Thomas Dworzak Takes Photos of Sad Marines and Taliban Poseurs

Magnum is probably the most famous photo agency in the world. Even if you haven’t heard of it, chances are you’re familiar with its images, be they Robert Capa’s coverage of the Spanish Civil War or Martin Parr’s very British holiday-scapes. Unlike most agencies, Magnum’s members are selected by the other photographers on the agency, so becoming a member is a pretty grueling process. As part of an ongoing partnership with Magnum, we will be profiling some of their photographers over the coming weeks.

Thomas Dworzak joined Magnum in 2000. His books often deal with war. His first, Taliban, was a found photo project which freaked out a lot of Americans who didn’t want to see what the Taliban looked like when they were fooling about. M*A*S*H IRAQ examined the daily lives of US Medevac teams in Iraq, and his latest book,Kavkuz, explored the impact years of brutal war had on the Caucasus region. Oddly enough, in spite of shooting in some of the most hellish conditions imaginable, he thinks Paris is the hardest place to work in.

VICE: You are often described as a “war photographer.” How do you feel about that?
Thomas Dworzak:
 It’s a label. What are you going to do about it? I’m not going to say I am not one, because I do go, and I used to go very often, to these conflict areas. But there are definitely people out there who are more into combat than me. There is a scale of how much involvement in war one has. And I’m not all the way up there.

How did working in Chechnya during the war there differ from your time in Iraq?
I think in Chechnya, I was more “on the ground.” I was hitchhiking around, trekking alone. You would talk to the fighters, you would spend time with them, and then if there was an attack you would arrive with them. It was all done in a very disorganized, one to one, personal way. I think Chechnya was very extreme as a war, compared to anything that I have seen since.

Extreme in what way?
Just the sheer amount of stuff I saw flying around. It was an atrocious war. Bosnia was very brutal of course, but there was not so much physical destruction, it was more killing and revenge on a very personal and human level, between neighbors or whatever. Chechnya was brutal in every way. The destruction of Grozny reached a level I had not seen until then, and haven’t seen since. I guess you might come across something like it now in Aleppo, for example. There was no accreditation when I was working there, no paperwork. I learned Russian so I could talk to the fighters. They were welcoming, so I spent time with them. Whereas in Iraq and Afghanistan I was embedded. You get your piece of paper and the military has to take care of you.

In what way did that affect your work? What’s your view on the embed format, do you think it worked well?
I think there is a strange kind of freedom in the structure of an embed. A lot of people have been bitching about it, going on about the embed being “the end of press freedom” and all that, but I don’t really think that’s true. I don’t know anything about Iraq really; I haven’t seen Iraq outside of the American point of view for so long now. But if I choose to cover the American angle, then an embed is not a bad way to do it. Because it is so institutionalized, you can actually move around and do a lot. You don’t have to beg, you don’t have to worry about anything. It’s a bit duller in that sense. You just have to follow the guys in front of you. And there are not that many decisions to be made. I find embeds pretty relaxing in that way.

Was your M•A•S•H• IRAQ project concluded over one single embed?
It was almost all embed work. I don’t want to over-emphasize the fact that some photos—just a few—weren’t taken in embeds as it’s meant to be an embed book. I don’t know, maybe it was two years or three years, something like that. The core of the work was done over a year, I did maybe five or six embeds with the medical units over that time.

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Original author: 
Rania Abouzeid

They are a familiar sight to anyone who has been on the frontlines in the embattled Syrian city of Aleppo: striped sheets—formerly store awnings, curtains and drapes—that once blocked the harsh sunlight or a neighbor’s prying eyes, now acting as shields against more lethal threats.

The sheets are strung between buildings (what’s left of them, at least) and across streets. They are meant to obscure a sharpshooter’s line of sight, providing a small measure of protection from an assassin lurking in the shadows of these often abandoned and devastated neighborhoods. For residents, even the simplest task, like going to a bakery or visiting a neighbor, can be a harrowing dash across a street with nothing but a piece of fabric for cover.

The billowing fabric provides unexpected bursts of color in urban landscapes that have otherwise been reduced to a near-ubiquitous gray: the gray of crushed cinder blocks from pulverized buildings, the gray dust that covers household belongings strewn about the rubble, the gray of a once-vibrant city that has been reduced to a stalemated battleground where it can sometimes seem as if the only other color on view is blood crimson.

The sheets also highlight the asymmetrical nature of Syria’s battlefield. The conflict, now in its third year, pits the army of President Bashar al-Assad against a hodgepodge of disorganized defectors, armed civilians and makeshift militias. One side has tanks, helicopter gunships and body armor; on the other side there are anti-aircraft guns and other weapons, often sourced from the black market, and handmade weapons fabricated in local workshops. The sheets are one more tangible testament to the rebels’ ability to improvise.

Photographer Franco Pagetti, who has covered conflicts in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other hotspots, captures the beauty of these sheets, and the terror they represent, in this series of haunting images. There are no people in these photos. The curtains serve as a witness to and a barrier between the two sides of this unending civil war. Like so many aspects of the conflict, the curtains are quotidian realities that have been stripped of their mundane origins. Today, they fulfill a purpose very different from their original roles.

Pagetti says the curtains reminded him of the miles upon miles of concrete barriers that crisscrossed Baghdad during the worst of the sectarian violence there, in 2006 and 2007.

“Aleppo’s sheets serve the same purpose: they protect lives,” he says. “But you’re always aware how fragile they are.” As he moves through the neighborhoods, Pagetti says he has to be acutely conscious of the direction of the sun and wind. “If your shadow falls on the sheet, the sniper can see you… Boom, you’re dead. If there’s a gust that blows the sheet up for a moment, you are completely exposed… Boom.”

Franco Pagetti is an Italian conflict photographer represented by VII.

Rania Abouzeid is a Middle East correspondent for TIME. Follow her on Twitter @Raniaab.

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Ten Years in Iraq - SADR CITY, BAGHDAD - MARCH 2008: Pieces of scrap metal and boxes mark graves in a makeshift cemetery for victims of sectarian killing, on the eastern outskirts the poor Shia slums of Sadr City. The bodies, shot by Shia militiamen, are collected from a nearby killing ground called al-Sadda, and buried by locals. (Photo by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad/ Reportage by Getty Images). See more iconic images from the Iraq War here.

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 Opposing Superpowers, Same TerrorThe idea that we are not so different from our enemies is one of the undercurrents of Justin Barton's photographs of former Cold War Intercontinental Ballistic Missile launch sites. Graphically composed, Barton's shots of the silos' interiors downplay national identity. ...

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 Supercut Homage to Photographer Movies Plays With StereotypesEnglish artists Mishka Henner and David Oates' supercut short film pulls together clips of photographer characters in movies from famous films like Blow Up, Salvador, and other not so critically-acclaimed films like Harrison's Flowers.

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 HBO’s Witness Goes Inside the Pulse-Pounding World of Conflict PhotographersThe most shocking and hardest to watch scene in the new HBO series Witness comes when photojournalist Eros Hoagland runs up to a car in Juarez where a young Mexican man sits dying after just being shot. It's a scene ...

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<< Previous | Next >> Katie Khouri

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When photojournalist Tim Hetherington suffered a mortar shell wound to the groin in Libya in April of last year, he ultimately died of massive blood loss. His death, according to friends, may have been prevented.

“Tim was my closest friend,” says Michael Kamber, founder and director of the Bronx Documentary Center. “He bled to death because he was surrounded by photographers who didn’t know how to stop the bleeding.”

In response to this assessment, Hetherington’s other close friend and co-director of the Oscar winning documentary Restrepo, Sebastian Junger, founded Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues (RISC), of which Kamber sits on the board. The organization simulates real war-injury scenarios at the Bronx Documentary Center, complete with pools of blood, contorted limbs and frenetic movement amid smoke-clad air, in order to train photographers and journalists in potentially life-saving techniques. “We go to great lengths to achieve the feel of war,” says Kamber.

“My adrenaline was going after I finished shooting the drills,” says photographer and Bronx Documentary Center volunteer, Katie Khouri. ”There was a real sense of urgency once trainer Sergeant Sawyer Alberi threw the smoke bombs and the CD of wailing and sporadic gunfire started. The trainees — all of whom are experienced conflict journalists – are a fun group of people but when the simulation began everyone switched into go mode.”

The need for medical training among journalists is especially desperate now as news outlets are employing freelancers — many without insurance or institutional support – to deliver stories.

“The industry is closing down bureaus. Increasing we are relying on freelancers for photographs. Look at the images from Syria, almost all of those are by freelancers, many of whom are without medical training or medical kits. It’s a recipe for disaster,” says Kamber, who has reported from over a dozen conflict zones during his career and even admits that he was unprepared in the past.

In recent years, the deaths of several photojournalists have reminded us of the extreme dangers faced by reporters in conflict zones. Getty photographer Chris Hondros died in the same mortar explosion as Hetherington; Anton Hammerle was killed by Gaddafi loyalists in April 2011; and Rémi Ochlik died in the bombing of Homs, Syria, in February of this year.

Prior to Hetherington’s death, he and Kamber were in the planning stages of a center devoted to video and photo documentary work.

“The Bronx Documentary Center is in Tim’s honor,” says Kamber. “It is dedicated to exactly what he believed in.”

Producing still and moving images for news, for film, for art spaces and for education, Hetherington believed in and practiced an approach to visual journalism that broke through the traditional confines of genre. The Bronx Documentary Center described by Kamber as a “community space, but not a hangout space” is devoted to serious application of skills and engagement. That extends from practical and vital training to exhibitions, lectures and workshops.

“We’re inventing new ways [to support documentary] and finding new outlets for documentary work, now that traditional media is dying and the public are distracted by a million points of white noise,” says Kamber.

Kamber lived in the Bronx during the eighties and says the support form the local community has been only positive, even during the conflict simulations that spill smoke, noise and blood onto the adjacents streets.

“Hundreds of people come by to stop, watch, comment, take photos and encourage us,” says Kamber. “Last year, when some neighbors heard the recording of the gunfire, they called the police, which is understandable. This year we’ve been very conscious to reach out to the NYPD.”

Unlike general hostile-environment training, RISC is focused on exclusively on medical training and on the procedures that will sustain someone between injury and the hospital front door. Tim Hetherington was only minutes from a hospital when he was struck by mortar fire in Misrata, Libya.

Through fundraising, RISC covers the cost of training which is approximately $1,000 per journalist. Following successful programs in New York, RISC plans training in London and Beirut. The response has been overwhelming. Kamber says, ”We’ve waiting lists. Journalists are desperate to get this training.”

Rookies, veterans, untrained and partially trained alike, there is a very real need for RISC’s type of training and photographers know it.

“You could see in some faces that it was taking them back to some bad memories,” says Khouri. “The reality is that potentially having to save an injured fellow journalist is a very real possibility when you report from the front lines. No one there took that responsibility lightly.”

RISC has an ongoing fundraising effort at Global Giving. Visit the RISC website and follow RISC on Facebook and Twitter

All images: Katie Khouri

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