Freedom Isn’t Free

Not to worry, Ass Missile. I’m sure you’ve got lots of photos and stories just like these, right?

Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Jim MacMillan:

The three photos included in the Pulitzer portfolio were all taken while MacMillan was embedded with coalition troops during some of the most intense fighting of the last two years.

In the battle of Najaf, MacMillan captured the resourcefulness of one soldier who created a dummy out of his helmet, sunglasses and a stick to try to draw out enemy snipers. Another photo taken during the same blazing hot August day shows soldiers hugging the ground, as one imagines bullets and glass flying overhead. MacMillan also captured the tragedy of war with a photo of Marines grieving over a colleague killed near Ramadi.

MacMillan says one of the most difficult parts of the assignment has been dealing with a number of friends-military personnel and journalists among them–who have died during the war.

“I’ve lost more friends here than during the rest of my life put together,” he says. “The vast majority of them were soldiers or Marines I’ve spent time with who later died.”

Another frustration was not being able to move about freely. MacMillan arrived in Iraq last April just after insurgents in Fallujah brutally murdered four American security guards. That incident marked the beginning of the most intense period of fighting, and insurgent attacks still shake the country on a daily basis. In the past year, MacMillan has only completed 12 non-embedded assignments outside the heavily fortified “Green Zone,” the last time coming in September. Since then he’s been in virtual “lockdown” mode, working on the AP picture desk seven days a week in 12- to 18-hour shifts.

“I’m essentially a street photographer and I haven’t been able to exercise that at all except for the embeds, which have some elements of that [style],” he says.

But MacMillan is walking away from his assignment with a better understanding of what soldiers go through and a deep admiration for the AP staffers in Iraq.

“My hope is that I return to my life as normal as I knew it before,” he says. “As I stand here in Iraq I recognize how easy we have it in the U.S.–how safe and easy and free it is. I hope I don’t lose track of that.”

Via Romenesko.