35 Remarkable Photos From The Iraq War — And The Stories Behind Them

War photographers tell the shocking, sad, and scary stories behind the images they captured during the Iraq War.

1.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Tikrit, Iraq. October 30, 2003.

“I was embedded in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown with the U.S. army unit that would capture the Iraqi dictator not long after I shot this picture … This man was sleeping outside a house when the Americans stormed [in during a raid]. Since soldiers put the plastic bag over his head, he did not move nor make a sound until they left. I think I could have taken this picture with a minute long exposure – it would be still sharp. The man just did not move. That was the time when a small mistake or a wrong move could have been fatal and everyone knew that.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

2.
Carlos Barria / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. February 14, 2007.

“This Iraqi policeman was watching a U.S. Blackhawk helicopter leaving his base in the southeast of Baghdad. The day was very hot and a lot of the policemen in the guardtowers were taking a nap. You didn’t hear much more than the wind running over the desert, until this spaceship of a machine appeared, disturbing dreams.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

3.
Jim Bourg / Reuters

Washington, D.C. January 11, 2007.

“During a 2007 White House ceremony awarding U.S. Marine Corps Corporal Jason Dunham the Medal Of Honor after his death in Iraq, tears emerged from the eyes and streamed down the cheeks of President George W. Bush. Standing beside the Marine’s mother Debra, the president was listening to a description of how Dunham selflessly threw himself atop a grenade about to explode to save the lives of those around him.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

4.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. March 21, 2003.

“I waited all night for the first strike on Baghdad. Two nights later there was a massive bombing, and that’s when I took this photo. I remember Iraqi troops came into the Palestine hotel, where most journalists were staying, looking for disks and tapes showing the bombing. They searched other journalists, but not me. I’m not sure why they didn’t search me perhaps because I tried to be nice to them.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

5.
Chris Helgren / Reuters

Al Asad, Iraq. November 6, 2003.

“Within about six months after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, Iraq’s occupation was getting ugly. Roadside bombs had begun to take their toll, and in early November, 2003 our bureau in Baghdad was alerted to news that a U.S. Army Chinook helicopter had crashed. Very shortly afterward it was apparent the chopper had been shot down, killing 15 soldiers and crew and wounding 26. A few days later one more of them died at a hospital in Germany. This was the largest single U.S. loss of life to date in the Iraq war, and it really shook America. Most of the victims were from bases in the Midwest and Texas, as well as soldiers from Fort Carson, Colorado. Three days after the crash I arrived at Al Asad air base to witness a memorial to the fallen. It was quite a sobering event, as troops quite visibly shaken formed up in front of a flatbed truck on which helmets were perched atop 15 rifles and pairs of desert boots … Later, eulogies were made and a 21-gun salute was fired, and many of the mourners became overcome, supported by comrades as they knelt or wept openly.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

6.
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Mosul, Iraq. June 25, 2008.

“During my second trip to Iraq, I was assigned to cover Mosul, in the north of the country. I was told that the most important aspect during my assignment was to follow the U.S. troops searching for IEDs. These searches were made house by house. It was a really difficult month, not only being scared at the possibility of taking my last breath of life, but also because I spent almost half of my assignment waiting for the sandstorms to pass. In June 2008, I was assigned to 1/8 Infantry Battalion in Mosul. We were patrolling the streets on foot for hours when we heard some shots ahead of us. The Commander gave us the order to take cover inside a construction area. As soon as we reached the place some soldiers ran up the stairs to take up positions as another soldier watched from the roof. As soon as I saw the other soldier on the roof, I made my way upstairs. But when I reached the spot, I only took two frames because we were in the middle of a battlefield and the scene was broken.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

7.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. June 13, 2007.

“This was a really boring day and nothing was happening. The Americans even took a picture of me while I slept under a tree. They were laughing at me and I woke up and saw them start pushing this car of an Iraqi man. His engine wouldn’t start so the Americans helped him.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

8.
Andrea Comas / Reuters

Mosul, Iraq. July 25, 2005.

“The picture was taken during a night raid in Mosul. Apparently the Americans had received a phone call accusing somebody in the house of belonging to the insurgent’s movement. When we went into the house what seemed to be a family was sitting on the floor having dinner. There were several children looking very scared at the soldiers storming the house. The soldiers searched through all the rooms and finally arrested the three adult men that were there. I think the two younger ones were brothers and an elderly man was their father, the grandfather of the children. I remember that I was very surprised that the children were able to stay almost silent and sitting on the floor all the time we were there. The three suspects were taken blindfolded into the garden of the house, where they had to kneel down. One by one they were taken separately to the backyard of the house. There they were interrogated by Americans that were not wearing soldier uniforms. They also had longer hair then the soldiers and beards. I had seen one of them before at the military camp. I was not allowed to attend the questioning. After a while all three men were taken into one of the military vehicles which had been brought to the house. None of them said anything or protested in any way.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

9.
Mohammed Ameen / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. July 27, 2006.

“These were days of violence in Iraq and in Baghdad, in particular after 2003. I headed to the scene of the blast where a building packed with explosive materials was leveled to the ground; the last thing I expected to see was a walking victim. She was covered with blood, moaning and screaming to people to help her to save the children who were stuck under the collapsed building. I was confused and hesitant whether to take photos or help her. In the end I had no choice but to help her after taking some pictures of the site. Unfortunately, we failed to save the children due to the smoke and fire that set the building ablaze.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

10.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Baquba, Iraq. June 29, 2007.

“I was on a rooftop sending pictures when I saw this soldier sleeping so I took a few frames. I remember Baquba well as I would lose 12 kilos over 3 weeks, because it was so hot. I was like a donkey - carrying 2-3 cameras, body armor, at least 3 liters of water in a camel pack and extra water bottles in my pockets. I used to carry heavy body armor as there were so many IEDs. At the end of the day you would drop everything and put on some dry clothes as yours were full of sweat.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

11.
Ceerwan Aziz / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. March 13, 2008.

“While I was on my way to cover an event and at a gathering point where journalists and photographers used to wait in Baghdad, two American soldiers standing near the monument of cross-swords attracted my attention. I took this picture to make the comparison between the symbols of the monument and the presence of the U.S. soldiers who occupied the country, it was a moment to document the contrast that we lived.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

12.
Carlos Barria / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. February 18, 2007.

“During a daily patrol in an area known as New Baghdad, in the southeast of Baghdad, the unit I was embedded with stopped for two hours at a corner in a crowded shopping area … Four minutes after we left the intersection, two car bombs tore through the area, killing 60 people. I have little recollection of what came right afterwards; things were happening fast. A man emerged from the smoke in front of me, carrying a dead boy. I have often wondered why the bomb exploded four minutes after we left. Did the driver of the car bomb get stuck in traffic and arrive late at his target? Or was there a decision to detonate the bomb right after the U.S. soldiers left to give people a sense of vulnerability? Or was the idea to show the soldiers the carnage? I’ll never know.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

13.
Kieran Dohert / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. May 21 2003.

“I was working unilaterally in Baghdad in a period immediately following the U.S. liberation of the city … On this particular occasion I was on my way back from shooting another story when we got caught up in traffic as we neared our base at the Palestine hotel. I noticed a compound where women were lining up in the midday heat for some form of monetary handout. I could see the picture I wanted to take before I even got out of the car. The wizened hands of the three old women holding each other against the black silk of their garments immediately reminded me of Albrecht Durer’s ‘Betende Hande’ (Praying Hands).”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

14.
Ahmed Malik / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. November 3, 2010.

“As a photographer working in Iraq for more than ten years I witnessed many events, most of them changed the history of Iraq, but some of those events changed my thoughts and my personal life … I cannot forget this moment when I attended the funeral of policeman who was killed in a car bomb attack. There were many mourners including relatives and friends. No one attracted my attention except those policemen in uniform. They were crying and grieving bitterly for their late colleague. I felt they were grieving themselves. They were mourning their future, their future that was held hostage in the hands of irresponsible people. All that I remember is I collapsed and cried with them.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

15.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Gritz, Iraq. November 11, 2003.

“This raid was smooth. Naturally, the assault team went into the targeted house first. Others, including me, nervously waited outside the house to see, actually to hear, how the raid went. As we waited, one of the soldiers ran from inside the house carrying a child. The kid was crying and his screams gave me just enough time to get my camera up. The picture is blurred not because I wanted it to be blurred but because everything happened too quickly for me to set-up my camera better. A few more kids were brought out from the house, followed by terrified women in their night robes. Wrapped in blankets, women and children watched as soldiers collected an arsenal of weapons found in the house and took their men away.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

16.
Jerry Lampen / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. April 15, 2003.

“When I arrived in Baghdad, after spending a month in southern Iraq, it was still possible to go out on your own without security personnel. First I took a look at the local hospital and after spending some time there I strolled around the premises of the hospital. I stumbled upon a group of Marines who were securing the buildings around the hospital and looking for possible collaborators and or Iraqi soldiers/snipers hiding in the high rises next to the hospital. The Marines were searching the buildings thoroughly and opening each and every room by kicking in the doors.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

17.
Eduardo Munoz / Reuters

Mosul, Iraq. June 26, 2008.

“I went on patrol with U.S. soldiers of 1/8 Bravo Company. We were still keeping an eye on houses where possible insurgents could be producing homemade IED’s for rebels in Iraq … After a few hours we arrived at this house where some women were meeting and taking care of their children. As soon as the women saw the soldiers invading their home, they got scared. I think all of us got scared at that moment. Probably it was because of all the screams of some children and some women. A few seconds later the whole place paused and was silent. I saw this little baby in that position, held in what I assume was a handmade cradle.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

18.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Baquba, Iraq. November 9, 2003.

“To remember what happened in and around this picture, I had to go into my archive. It is an image that could have been taken on any day since U.S. troops and their allies invaded the country. The caption also does not offer a lot more – just basic information about the time and place and what army unit was involved … Contrary to this man who was detained and later brought to the base – what happened to him after I don’t know – for us it was just another ugly day that it could have turned even more uglier if something went wrong.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

19.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Baquba, Iraq. June 30, 2007.

“During a night raid in Baquba, U.S. soldiers searched a house they believed to be full of weapons. This girl raised her hands for a short moment as one of the soldiers entered the room. It was her immediate reaction. I try to always go in with the first soldiers as I never like to shoot pictures from the back. “

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

20.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Baquba, Iraq. November 13, 2003.

“It started as just another regular night raid outside Baquba. But, something went wrong and men that U.S soldiers were after escaped from their houses just before they were raided. The men were obviously important targets (one was apparently the executioner for the Saddam regime) and the commander of the unit I was embedded with decided to chase them. The chase went through the villages into the dense vegetation around the Diala river. I thought it was not such a great idea to follow soldiers into the grass and instead I just stayed on the little hill above the river from where I shot this picture.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

21.
Chris Helgren / Reuters

Basra, Iraq. March 28, 2003.

“A few days after crossing the Iraqi frontier from Kuwait, where we’d watched the night time assault from atop a water tower, British Army lines were edging closer and closer to the major southern city of Basra. Roads were jammed with local people heading towards us, but curiously enough a large number were also returning back home with supplies … Finally, on May 28 cameraman Fedja Grulovic and I were able to make it across the Zubair bridge spanning the Shatt al-Basrah waterway and into Basra’s city limits. We were the first Western journalists to do so. The British Army were prodding the lines on the edge of the city up ahead, sending Warrior fighting vehicles up and down a road flanking the city’s technical institute. When the British got close, a barrage of mortars was unleashed by the Iraqi forces, prompting the withdrawal of the Warriors. Unfortunately, we and a number of civilians were also on the road. I saw a group of them running towards me and shot a few frames of this family passing a destroyed tank. Within seconds Fedja and I had to dive under the same tank, making room for an Iraqi cyclist too, as mortar shells exploded around us.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

22.
Atef Hassan / Reuters

Basra, Iraq. January 30, 2005.

“This picture shows a donkey-drawn cart ridden by a handicapped man being inspected as it entered a polling station. These were the first elections after the fall of Saddam Hussein.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

23.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Al Nassiriyah, Iraq. March 25, 2003.

“With short stops to fight brief battles, fix equipment or merge with other units the road to Baghdad for Marines I was embedded with during the Iraqi invasion was pretty much driving, driving and more driving. The road cut straight through the desert and it was obvious that the troops were avoiding towns and villages – the main target was way up north and troops were rushing toward Baghdad from all the sides. However, dead bodies were all around.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

24.
Eliana Aponte / Reuters

Falluja, Iraq. November 10, 2004.

“I was sitting with a crew of soldiers playing cards next to military tanks. It was a boring day with nothing to do - just another day during my embed with the U.S. Marines from Charlie Company … Suddenly one mortar landed next to us, and we heard a very loud explosion. Nobody understood what happened in that moment, everybody jumped under the military vehicles. Those were scary seconds; you don’t have too much time to react. And then after 15 seconds another one. That one landed 50 yards from us – close enough for us to see how another crew of soldiers in front of us were blown to pieces … The only pictures were the soldiers carrying their colleagues, all of them trying to do something. The helicopters arrived so quickly. In the end, eight soldiers died - soldiers, young people, looking for a place to work in the army, without any experience in war. This was one of the worse days of my life. You can lose everything in just one second.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

25.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Abu Ghraib Prison. May 17, 2004.

“Tensions were super high and fingers very nervously on the trigger. Reuters cameraman Mazen Dana was shot dead by a U.S. soldier outside Abu Ghraib as he was filming. All I could do, and that proved to be right thing, was to camp at the gates of the prison complex taking some easy pictures and hoping to have a chance to get in. To my surprise, one of the visiting delegations (it was some British parliamentarians and NGOs, if I remember correctly) agreed to take me into the prison with their convoy … At one moment, as I was taking photos of empty corridors, a hand of an Iraqi prisoner came from behind the bars. I snapped a few frames.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

26.
Jason Reed / Reuters

Al-Asad airbase in Anbar Province. September 3, 2007.

“This picture was taken under the cover of darkness at an airbase in Anbar Province in the Iraq desert, on one of those secretive trips where you are told by a White House official to be at Andrews Air Force Base at a certain time on a particular day. No other details are given. You show up, surrender your cameras and communication devices until Air Force One is in the air, and then find out we are on a top secret trip to Iraq. No one back in Washington knew the President had even left the White House grounds until the travelling journalists with Bush broke news that we had landed at Al-Asad Airbase. This was really one of the only pictures that showed Bush in-country.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

27.
Jerry Lampen / Reuters

Basra, Iraq. March 29, 2003.

“At the end of March the British 7th Armoured Brigade was pushing its way into Basra … One day, early in the morning I was at the bridge leading into Basra as big clouds of black smoke rose from areas in the city which were on fire from the shelling and bombardments. People were fleeing the city and there were chaotic scenes with all men from the age of 16 up to 80 strip-searched by British soldiers on the highway, along with all cars and other vehicles. I photographed these scenes when I spotted a young girl holding her baby sister wearing a bright red jacket. This jacket stood out in the dark, moody and almost apocalyptic scene. I felt the girls were waiting for. After shooting a few pictures and hanging around for a while I saw a woman dressed in traditional black dress carrying a big sack on her head containing food and personal belongings. I photographed this scene as well and it turned out to be the girls’ mother who went back into Basra to get these items and move on to the next safe town. A few days later Basra was freed and people could return to their houses or what was left of them.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

28.
Ceerwan Aziz / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. February 12, 2007.

“When I arrived at the Shorja market where the car bomb exploded, I saw the destruction caused by the explosion of a truck laden with explosive materials. A young man cried loudly, asking people to help him in evacuating victims. His expression represented all the struggles and stories of those fallen in the attack. The picture expressed honestly the destruction and pain of the place.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

29.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. August 6, 2007.

“My days in Baghdad with the soldiers of the artillery brigade I was embedded with that summer were spent mostly inside their base or patrolling in armored vehicles through the city … In this picture, in a very rare interaction between civilians and soldier in those days, an Iraqi woman was trying to convince soldiers she had nothing to do with illegal fuel that was sold on the streets. They let her go.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

30.
Atef Hassan / Reuters

Basra, Iraq. September 19, 2005.

“It was a tough situation following confrontations and shootings between the British army and the Mehdi Army. It was very dangerous because people were angry. I was worried and scared.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

31.
Bob Strong / Reuters

Baiji, Iraq. December 24, 2007.

“I was on an embed with the U.S. Army in Baiji, north of Baghdad. One of the things they were responsible for was Iraq’s largest oil refinery north of the city. We were on an early morning patrol through the worker’s housing area and this man began to approach the troops carrying a rucksack. The soldiers shouted for him to stop and put their laser rifle sights on his face and chest. He stopped, dropped his pack and opened his shirt to show he did not have an explosive vest or weapons underneath. The soldiers put down their weapons and he was allowed to continue.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

32.
Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Baghdad, Iraq. April 9, 2003.

“I woke up around 6am and started driving around Baghdad. The Americans had captured most of the city already … Francesca, one of our London editors, called me and told me the Saddam statue was coming down. I went down there and took pictures of this guy looking at the statue. I came closer to him and had the perfect picture – a U.S. Marine looking at a statue pulled down by Americans.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

33.
Ali Jasim / Reuters

Najaf, Iraq. August 18, 2004.

“A young girl cried after her uncle was wounded when shells landed near her home, during armed clashes between U.S. forces and the Mahdi Army. The child’s home was near where I live.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

34.
Jorge Silva / Reuters

Baquba, Iraq. October 15, 2005.

“I was on patrol with a company, visiting polling station. The day was tense. Suddenly we ran into an old red car driving fast just in front of us. When the driver saw the army caravan, he turned around and accelerated, and a pursuit began… The vehicle was intercepted some 100 yards in front of us by another hummer who drove on an alternate path. When I reached the car, he was already being blindfold, and sitting on the back of the truck, he was praying aloud, a U.S. captain approached him and was reflected in the window. He asked the translator what he was saying. ‘He’s asking God to save him,’ the translator said. The answer triggered laughter from the soldiers.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

35.
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Central Iraq. March 29, 2003.

“I was resting in my fox hole with a broken foot when the frantic firefight broke out – small weapons and some heavy machinegun were fired at the edge of a camp. After maybe 15 minutes (maybe more but it looked like five, really) the whole situation was over. What exactly happened I don’t know nor will I ever know but there were dead bodies around a dark brown bullet-ridden Russian made car, several wounded people crying for help and some armed men captured in a field outside a base.”

Read more at Reuters Full Focus

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