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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


My Life As a Photo Journalist

Moises Saman, a freelance photographer, didn’t pick up a camera until age 19.

Ever since then, Saman has taken snapshots both at home and abroad, traveling to places such as Israel, Palestine, Haiti and Iraq.

The campus community glimpsed some of Saman’s work at the Staller Center while attending the first lecture in the School of Journalism’s ‘My Life As’hellip;’ series this fall. All eyes in the crowded auditorium became fixated on two pictures from the Iraq war in’ 2001 on the screen. The chatter in the room ceased.

The first photo displayed a mushroom cloud caused by an American strike against the Taliban, at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The second showed an Afghan soldier kneeling next to his dead best friend, a translator, who was killed in a car accident. Silence filled the room.

After, Saman showed a picture of a dead Lebanese soldier lying on the ground.’ Fire from an Israeli airstrike wounded the shoulder, his right arm severed from his shoulder. Saman said the picture was ‘gory.’ He also said the one soldier went into battle and was killed instantly.

Saman chose to capture the moment in a black and white photo.

‘It’s a personal decision,’ he said. ‘I find it a more direct way of communication.’

Many of Saman’s pictures shown after were also black and white. The depiction of devastation and the occasional graphic display hypnotized everyone in the room. Another picture showed a dead woman, raped and left on the side of a road.

As Saman ran through his portfolio, he didn’t talk about himself. Instead, he gave brief descriptions of each picture, while allowing the audience to continue to interrupt him at any point if they wanted.

When asked about how much interaction he has with the people he shoots photos of, even during dangerous times, Saman said he has a lot. ‘I like to work closely with people and establish some connection with them,’ he said. ‘You can’t just put the camera right in front of their face.’

The former Newsday photojournalist also didn’t speak about his eight-day imprisonment in Abu Ghraib during the early days of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Dean of the School of Journalism Howard Schneider mentioned it once in Saman’s introduction.

Even after his imprisonment, however, Saman decided to return to Iraq, and other devastated areas, to shoot photos. Since 2001, Saman has concentrated on covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as projects in Pakistan, Nepal, Haiti, Lebanon, El Salvador and Cuba.

‘What drives me to keep going back to these places is my desire to inform, and to try to get people to understand what’s going on,’ he said. ‘I think that’s worth it.’

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