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.

I think things happen for that time in your life and that was the right thing for me to do at that time in my life, and this is the right thing for me to do at this time in my life. I still do think that what we do is important. This seems probably very naïve, but I love trying to bring out people’s personality in pictures and, again, I feel like I fail every time because people can be so intricate and weird and cool. So I’m like, “Oh, I have to come back and I have to do it better next time.” And so you become even more obsessed and you think, “Maybe this time I’ll get it, maybe this time I’ll take the definitive photo of the Iraq War that’ll get people to pay attention like they did in Vietnam.” I always wonder what would that photo be? This story—more than Vietnam—is so complex and different and it goes through stages, and our relationship with the military is weird and the war itself is more removed than it was in Vietnam. Now, soldiers can fire bombs at people from so far away that it’s almost not personal in many ways. I guess the definitive photo so far would be the pictures soldiers took in Abu Ghraib. Because they show the reality that no one wants to really admit, which is that the relationship between the US and the Iraqis that they are supposed to be liberating was not quite so cheery.

He’s Going to Fucking Kill Me

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.