Richard Mosse ART ’08 is in the Persian Gulf awaiting an available flight to Baghdad. Mosse will be embedded with the U.S. military in Iraq, photographing Saddam Hussein’s palaces. Mosse will be sending regular updates and photographs to the News.
We’ve been waiting days now to embark for Baghdad. A videographer and I have been staying with troops in what is known as “tent city,” on an unnameable U.S. base on the Persian Gulf. I am not very sure why it’s forbidden to reveal the location of this place. It will be obvious enough to anyone with a vague working knowledge of the region. Perhaps the host country is ashamed of what’s going on here. The base is a busy hub for moving troops and equipment into and out of Iraq. It’s a prefabricated city built on a desert. The dust rattles through the place while military juggernauts beetle across the sky, and Apache gunships zip along the horizon in formation.
We watched as our names climbed the long list of people queueing to fly into Baghdad. After waiting all night, we stole onto an aircraft at 6 a.m. while others, farther up the list, slept. Delighted with ourselves, we forgot our exhaustion, hauled our many pieces of luggage onto the bus, and were driven out onto the tarmac to a waiting Hercules. But again we had to wait. Hurry up and wait. That’s the motto of the armed forces. Finally a woman came to inform us that our seats had been taken by a pair of GMC pick-ups, and that we would not be able to fly out after all. We’ve waited two days here already for our onward flight. I heard of one fellow who has waited eight full days and still hasn’t been able to move on. His mind must be going blank. This place is exactly how I imagine purgatory — an endless, sleepless wait to move up a terminal list of the damned dressed in bullet proof vests waiting to transit to the fiery hell of the International Zone.
We are out here to take photographs of Saddam Hussein’s many palaces around Iraq. I’ve been waiting several months to make this trip and wouldn’t have made it this far without the generous assistance of the News. Our trip is funded by a grant from the Annenberg Foundation, given to me upon graduation from the Yale School of Art MFA in photography last summer. The grant allowed me to bring along Trevor Tweeten, a talented New York videographer. Between us I hope we can get a good sense of this raddled nation and how it is being stitched back together again.
Richard Mosse is a 2008 graduate of the Yale School of Art.