I photographed the car coming in, and even the tail end of it getting shot up and it resting on the curb, the children coming out, the soldiers carrying them over to the side, treating them, looking them over, trying to figure out who was shot, who was not. And the father — the mother’s body was collapsed, you could hardly see her, but the father was still sitting up on the seat, riddled with bullets, his skull had almost collapsed because it had been shot so many times.
What happened was — and we found out from the boy who was shot, he ended up being flown to Boston for treatment — they were out visiting with family or something and they knew that their curfew was in the evening, so they were trying to get home. It was a little bit after the curfew, but time is never a precise thing to Iraqis — it’s not like this German, iron-clad, six-o-one curfew. It’s more like, all right, you’re not supposed to be driving around at night. Generally speaking, you could be out on the roads after six o’clock and nothing would happen to you. They were just trying to hustle and get home, and they’re driving along, and all of a sudden they hear shots. They don’t see — it’s dark — they don’t see camouflaged soldiers in the dark in front of them. They just hear shots. Now, when you’re in a car driving around Iraq and you hear shots, your first instinct is to speed up, because either someone’s shooting at you for some reason or somebody’s about to get into a battle nearby. Either way, you don’t want to be around there; you want to get out of there. And then, the headlight range — by the time they actually get into the region of your headlights, forget it, that’s way too close, they’re already engaging you by that point, shooting you up by that point. So that’s why they didn’t stop.
So I photographed this thing, and again [the military] didn’t try to obstruct me or stop me from photographing — and they could have — and it’s kind of remarkable that they didn’t; it’s kind of a human reaction and so on. But they didn’t, and that has happened before: sketchy things have happened on embeds. Almost every soldier in Iraq has been involved in some sort of incident like that or another, I would say. Their attitude about it was grim, but it wasn’t the end of their world. It was, “Well, kind of wished they’d stopped. We fired warning shots. Damn, I don’t know why the hell they didn’t stop. What’re you doing later, you want to play Nintendo? Okay.” Just a day’s work for them. That stuff happens in Iraq a lot. That’s why it’s such a damn mess, because almost everybody’s had something like that happen to them at the hands of U.S. soldiers. They hate them.
But I realize, as much as that happens in Iraq, it almost never gets photographed, and so I did realize I was onto an important set of pictures. I was also technically worried if I had anything at all because it was completely pitch dark, almost to the limits of what can be photographed, and I had the camera set in a way that lets in the maximum amount of light but often blurs photos, so I was worried that it would be a bunch of mush. So I played along with their casual attitude, because I didn’t want them to realize what I suspected: that this would be an important set of pictures that would go out a lot. I wasn’t saying, “What’s your name? What’s his name? What happened here?” I was just trying to photograph, and I was just trying to stay in the background — click-click quietly, didn’t say anything, didn’t offer up any opinion or anything. And then it’s, “We’re going now.” “All right, ready to go?” “Okay.”