As the tenth anniversary of the American invasion of Iraq draws near, the country has largely been left behind by other crises competing for the world’s attention. Hurricane Sandy, Europe’s fiscal and economic chaos, and the endless slaughter in next door Syria have obscured what was already fleeting coverage of Iraq following the official American withdrawal in 2011. And yet a profoundly important story remains to be told, that of a country continuing to labor under the twin pressures of post-war reconstruction and sporadic sectarian violence that threatens the foundations of Iraq’s fragile stability. Thankfully, media outlets haven’t completely abandoned Iraq as they divert resources to the more immediate news of the day, and in fact, some of the finest journalists currently at work remain there to this day.
One of them, the AFP’s Baghdad Bureau Chief Prashant Rao, has covered Iraq since 2009. In addition to compiling a resume of solid reporting from the country, Rao has informally documented day-to-day life there with his camera. His photos offer an arresting portrait of a country looking to rebuild after war, an Iraq largely unfamiliar to western audiences. Whether recording intimate scenes of children playing outdoors after dark, religiously inspired street art in Baghdad, the humdrum preparations for a diplomatic meeting in a hotel conference room, or street musicians performing after a Mheibes match, Rao’s photographs offer a texture and warmth to our understanding of a country currently getting crowded out from our collective imagination.
In the selection of photographs that follow below, Rao presents us with a gallery of gorgeous shots that escape the familiar scenes of urban market stalls and the crowded courtyards of the mosque. Here we get a different sense of Iraq - an astonishingly panoramic country, one that suffers from the effects of war without being completely engulfed by them — in short, a sweeping landscape majestic with pathos. - by Michael Busch