Every couple of weeks we ask a photographer five questions about how they get the photos that they get. This week, our subject is Garrick Morgenweck, a US Army Flight Medic whose book, My Year in Afghanistan, really impressed me. A lot of really incredible books have been made by those that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but what I like so much about Morgenweck’s book is how it focuses on the landscape of Afghanistan, bringing out the beauty in a land that we often see only as a news story.
In his words, “I am a US Army Flight Medic with 15 years in the Army split over two periods. In between, I was a metro paramedic in a large city and offshore paramedic in the Gulf of Mexico. I have done three combat tours, two to Iraq, and one to Afghanistan. The first as a combat medic assigned to a ground unit, the last two as a flight medic. I have a wife and three daughters.”
Blurb: In your book description, you said you had “less than desirable equipment.” What did you use?
Morgenweck: When people think about taking photographs they geneally think of the photographer with big lenses and expensive DSLRs. When I meant less than desirable, thats what I was referring to. For most of the tour, my photos were made with an older Canon PowerShot 1100IS 3.5-megapixel point-and-shoot pocket camera. This camera spent three tours in my shirt pocket and at some point sand got under the lens and was permanently affixed inside the camera. Every photo I took with this camera required cropping to remove the dust from the image leading to the sometimes odd crops in some pictures. I was able to upgrade to a Canon G12 a few months before my tour ended. This was a much better camera, although still a point and shoot.
Blurb: Did you do much photography before you went over?
Morgenweck: I have spent countless hours documenting my life in one form or another. As I explained in the previous question I kept a small camera in my pocket on all three combat tours. That’s about a far as my “photography” went until this past tour. As a father, I have about a thousand snapshots of family, of course.
Blurb: Your book contains photos not just related to your role there as a medic, but of the geography. Can you talk a bit about the country and what inspired you to focus on the landscape?
Morgenweck: Its not that I decided to focus on the landscapes persay, it’s more that I decided to publish the landscape photos more than other kinds. The media and journalists have done an expectionally thorough job of documenting the war, and part of that was documenting the soldiers in it. What hasn’t been published was the other side of the country – the beauty of the mountains and other vistas. When I started showing people my photos, they always reacted to the landscapes more than any other style. Several people urged me to publish those images in a book so they could keep them and show people a side of Afghanistan they had not seen. This is why I decided to publish the book in the end.
Blurb: There’s a photograph on page four of a young girl, which I originally mistook as a boy, and an older man sitting in a helicopter. Can you talk about this photograph and how it happened?
Morgenweck: It’s not unusual to find young girls dressed as boys in Afghanistan. It’s part of the culture. As to how the picture happened, I am not really sure. I believe I was just shooting different things and pointed the camera in the general direction, snapping the pic without looking. This was taken on the old Canon 1100IS I discussed. It has a bit of camera shake in it as well. The reason I kept it, even though it is not the best photograph, is because it seems to speak to everyone who sees it, despite the less than excellent quality.
Blurb: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us. And thank you for your service.
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