PhotographerLee Hoagland
PrizeHonorable Mention
Entry Description

Victims of war are frequently portrayed as objects rather than human beings. To bring a different perspective I built a makeshift studio inside of a hospital to create a new vernacular for victims of the Iraq war. The work was done in a manner more akin to a fashion shoot than a reportage. This approach expresses the horror of everyday violence in war zones while also maintaining the subjects respect and dignity. The work is currently being exhibited by the Magenta foundation. Additionally it was used in a global campaign to raise money for life saving surgeries.


Saja Kheir had been a lively six-year old Iraqi who enjoyed playing soccer, especially games with other neighborhood children. She helped her mother with dinner and at night her father tucked her into bed. One night changed everything. She woke to a deafening explosion as her room became engulfed in flames from fighting in her neighborhood. She struggled to escape as the fire melted her skin. She survived but suffered life threatening third degree burns that left her severely disfigured.   I met her in Amman, Jordan, on the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War. She is undergoing a painful multi-year series of grafts using skin from parts of her body to help heal her face. The modern era of endless war has hardened our hearts to the deaths and injuries suffered daily. The world has grown inured to stories like Saja's. Every minute two people are killed in a conflict. That’s hard to comprehend. Often when people look at photographs of war they see victims as objects of pity.   I was determined to take a different approach when photographing Iraqi war patients inside of a Doctor’s Without Borders reconstructive surgery center. I built a makeshift studio and took their portraits in a manner more akin to a fashion shoot than a reportage. By creating a new vernacular I was able to cut through the public’s fatigue and give a fresh understanding of the horrors of everyday violence in a conflict zone.