Pictures Of War – “Standard Operating Procedure” from Errol Morris

From the time of Matthew Brady, photographs of the horrors of war have beseiged those not in attendance to share and remind us of a view of that reality.

Whether it’s a battlefield strewn with the remains of the valiant of the Civil War, or the images from the Vietnam war of the child fleeing from the Naplam attack or the man shooting his handcuffed prisoner in the head, or perhaps the most famous image of war, the soldiers raising the American Flag on Iwo Jima. One thing that has been the hallmark of all of these photographs is that professional photographers have been responsible for them.

Tonight, we went to a screening of the movie Standard Operating Procedure at the Hammer Museum, a documentary on the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.

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In the current war in Iraq, 2003 brought us a new kind of horror: that of the humiliation and torture of the detainees of prison at Abu Ghraib. These images of those men, either appearing to be leashed or forced into a naked pyramid, had the added element of soldiers giving a smiling thumbs up as they posed in these scenes. Trust us that the range of images in this movie are more than you have seen to date.

These photos were all made by the soldiers themselves, with their point and shoot digital cameras. Not pros. And the person-to-person sharing fallout sent many of them to jail for the transgression.

In this movie, Standard Operation Procedures, Errol Morris, known for his movies Fog of War and Thin Blue Line, interviews many of the actual participants, at least those not in jail. His in- your-face interview style, which we learned was culled sometimes from 20 hours of interviews of a single person, is a chilling indictment of the events that took place at this prison facility. And it wasn’t only this humiliation, but the “information gathering techniques” which we don’t see.

The movie uses the many actual photographs plus recreated scenes to piece together the culpability of the photographers.

We haven’t posted the images here but the shots are linked throughout the article.
They are very strong photographs from any perspective.

The public is also invited to investigate further at takepart.com/sop

The power of the still image can have many permutations.

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