Firefights are scary, but it’s the IEDs that really kill you. It’s that suffocating feeling of being inside any kind of vehicle. I even wore my iPod I think for one year straight when I was in a Humvee because I couldn’t take it. In 2006 and 2007 it was just all the time, and you just realize that there is nothing you can do. It doesn’t matter how fast you can run or how well you can see or even if you try to figure out like, well, if I’m in the first Humvee or the second Humvee or maybe the third, which one would be the least likely to be actually hit? You just have to realize that it’s all a gamble, then you just sit there and you think, why am I doing this? And you hope that what we do actually gets seen and you hope that it actually does some good.

Sometimes I think that I totally failed. Because I don’t think any of the pictures I have ever taken have adequately shown all of that.

Some of the military would say, “Oh, you just want these pictures because you want to sell newspapers.” I’m like, “Do you know how many subscriptions were cancelled because of any photo that we ran that was even close to something like that?” Even my own mother would say, “I know this is happening but to be honest, I don’t want to see it.” You go home and you hit your head against the wall and you don’t know why you do this, but then that’s when you come back because you know that we’re probably some of the only eyes on this thing.

A Very Different Life

There’s a large toll it takes on all of us. After coming here in 2003, I got divorced at the end of 2004. I was just here the whole time. And I changed so much. I think it’s hard for me to be in the United States. Not that I dislike the United States, because I actually have a lot of pride still in my country. I find that it’s hard to be completely social. It just feels a little harder to fit in. Sometimes I get anxious. Sometimes I get bored. Sometimes I am just kind of numb. Sometimes I lose patience. In grocery store lines or with TV shows, or random things. It’s just not important or interesting to me on some level. I put everything I owned in two suitcases, everything else is in storage or sold, and I left the States. I don’t really live anywhere now. I had a house and a fenced-in yard and two dogs and a wonderful husband who is a great guy—he’s a schoolteacher. He had a very different life. When I started leaving, it kind of makes sense, he kind of felt like I abandoned him. I started to divide my life into two different realms. Like, I have a bulletproof vest, and I travel with $10,000 in my sock and, and I wear an abaya half the time and my helmet the other half the time, like some sort of deranged superhero or something. And then in the other life I am this suburban housewife. Things like doing the bills, all those things, became—it’s just that the two lives didn’t fit anymore and eventually neither did my husband. So I just think I slowly—he felt that I just wasn’t there anymore. He told me that I abandoned him.

Michael Kamber is a contract photographer and writer for The New York Times who has chronicled many of the world's major conflicts over the last decade. His interview with Bruce is part of his forthcoming book, the working title of which is Uncensored: A Photojournalists' Oral History of the Iraq War. It is due out in 2012 from the University of Texas Press.