Throughout the War on Terror, there has been a knowledge gap between the civilian population and the service members who have gone to Iraq and Afghanistan. One reason could be the relatively small number of Americans who serve in the military or the fact that those places are so foreign they are nearly inconceivable unless you have been there. Ed Darack, a photographer, journalist, and cartographer, has covered the war in both countries extensively, as well as military training at home. His new book “War Moments,” is helping to diminish the gap between civilians and service members. Through a fusion of photography and narrative journalism, Darack is hoping to create a piece of journalism that is relatable to every American. I spoke with Darack about his new book recently, and about what he hopes to accomplish with “War Moments.”
NEWSREP: Ed, What exactly is “War Moments?”
Darack: It’s a compilation of 118 of my favorite pictures taken in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as of training. I’ve been embedded with many different units and I have had the opportunity to get a lot of images that most people don’t normally get to see. Each picture has a companion piece to accompany the photos. I wrote what I feel was the most compelling story associated with each image.
N: Your first image in the book is of a Marine named Jeremy Sandvick Monroe. It’s a very striking photo, but I was heartbroken when I read the accompanying piece and learned that Jeremy had been killed a few years later in Iraq. Can you tell me more about that specific image?
D: I really liked Jeremy a lot; we were pretty good friends in the sense that we spent a lot of time together in war. Everyone loved Jeremy. He was a great guy and it’s just one of my all-time favorite photographs. But when I paint an image of war with specific vignettes, [losing friends] is part of it. You meet friends and you meet enough people who are deployed and you’re going to lose friends, because that’s the profession. I wanted that tragic fact to come across and be very apparent.
N: Was that your objective in writing the book? To illustrate the realities of the War on Terror?
D: The objective is to grant a really lucid window into modern warfare. This is what it’s like. With “War Moments,” you can see it through the images and you can learn about it through the stories. While nonfiction books lack pictures, picture books lack context and information, so this is an amalgamation of the two. It’s a fusion of visual works and narratives. It’s much more than a who-what-where-when-why caption. It’s more lucid and offers a greater understanding.
N: What’s one of your favorite things about publishing this book?
D: I love when the families of the military personnel get the pictures and the books, because it helps the families understand what their service member goes through. Seeing it and then seeing it and reading about it helps to explain what their loved ones experienced. I like to inform and educate, not only for historical record, but also so families and civilians can look and learn and see the very unknown side [of war], the everyday little special things like Beanie Babies in a supply drop or how a Marine appreciates real food after being in the field. The book is full spectrum and has a lot of moments you can’t expect or explain. Those are the moments that service members will remember forever but rarely talk about, or when they do, civilians can’t understand their importance.
N: Do you have a favorite image in the book?
D: I have many. One that comes to mind is called “Christmas in Afghanistan.” Charles Christmas is posing with a Beanie Baby, and when I look at that it brings back so many good memories, because we’re such good friends. There’s also one picture of Mario—a SAW gunner—and I have some great images of these guys doing really tough things.
N: You spent the better part of 15 years covering the war and training, which you still do, and that included a lot of embedded work with combat units. Was there a picture you took where you remember being afraid or in danger?
D: There’s one, “Sprint for Cover,” of Kory Stone where he is sprinting with a 240B medium machine gun. That’s definitely a moment where you know wherever you put your foot down could be your last step because there were so many IEDs in that location.
“War Moments” is both lighthearted and dark, funny and serious. It truly gave me a deeper appreciation for the American service members’ experiences during the War on Terror. It includes pictures and stories from Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force units both at war and during training. It’s published by Amherst Media, available nationally in all major bookstores and from online retailers like Amazon.