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

People are more scared of cameras here than they are of guns. I always wonder if the Americans’ fear of journalism and journalists has actually kind of become the Iraqis’ fear of journalists and cameras. I can’t even carry a camera down the street these days without someone from the Iraqi military stopping me and harassing me. I showed up at a car bomb scene and it started getting so violent. They would push you, smack you. Someone took a piece of metal and swung it at me. I mean, I have been slapped. It’s been insane. In 2005, there were several suicide bombings, one after another, one day in Karbala. We hear the bombs going off and myself and the reporter, of course, our initial reaction is to take pictures. I wasn’t with the military. I was dressed in an abaya. That’s just how I deal with it, and it was horrible—the bombing scene, blood everywhere and people being carted off in wheelbarrows with no legs and just like hell. I started taking pictures and before I knew it I was lifted off the ground and pinned against a wall, and there was one person and he was screaming at me and I remember the look in his eyes like, “He’s going to kill me, he’s going to just fucking kill me,” because they are just so upset, they just saw tons of people reduced to nothing. And there was one person doing this and suddenly there were just fifty people doing that to me. That whole mob mentality. And luckily, I was with a reporter who spoke Arabic and he told them, “She’s my wife, she’s my wife, you have to respect her.” And slowly, that humanized me to some extent; so slowly, after a lot of talking, they let me go. That was probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me—“You have a camera, you are the reason why this is happening, so we are attacking you.”

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.