It wasn’t that way in 2003 or ’04. I remember people wanting me to take pictures of car bombs because they were like, “This is freedom, this is what the Americans are bringing to Iraq!” And then, suddenly, the media became the problem and I don’t know how or why that happened exactly. After talking this mob down, the reporter and I walked away and it took another half hour to get my cameras back, which we did, which is unbelievable. There was some kind man in the crowd who helped us. And then we walked away and the guy who initially grabbed me found us again and I was like shaking at this point, I couldn’t, I couldn’t think. And he grabbed us and he was like, “I understand now, you’re journalists, you must take pictures of this.” And so he grabbed us and he took us around for an hour, and made me take pictures of every little piece of flesh. Or like a tooth. Or an eye. Or brains. Which is just as traumatic almost. I was like, “No one is going to use these pictures,” and I am taking pictures of all the little tiny bits of body parts, under the supervision of this guy who almost killed me. It was just the craziest thing. To this day, I hear a bombing and I barely go out to cover it.


No Regrets
The military really is a guy culture. And they almost don’t know what to do with us [women] when we embed with them. And you’re stuck in like, supply closets, living by yourself. Or with some FOBs that are actually dangerous. I have had to live in tiny, half-fallen shacks. Far away from where all the men are, no sand bags, in the middle of nowhere. I mean, it’s tough for women in Iraqi culture, too. I’ve had men slap me and tell me, “Woman, no.” Actually, quite a few times I have had [American] guys on embeds flat out tell me, “You’re a woman, you shouldn’t be here.” Female soldiers aren’t allowed on the front lines. But we are. We’re the only women on the front lines of any war. It’s kind of incredible. And as a photographer, we’re right there up front. I have had to earn the trust of people. I have to prove myself to be hardcore, that I can actually do it. I have probably more experience than most of the guys. But also, they won’t respect you if you completely give up your femininity. So you can’t be like completely butch. I am just kind of a shadow or something.

Some people look at us women and think that we have somewhat sad lifestyles. But I’m kinda like, “Are you kidding me?! This is the best life!” We see the most amazing things, we meet the most amazing people. I guess it’s the whole marriage-baby thing that makes people think that, but I have no regrets.

 

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.