Ref NoOHP/30/3
TitleSean Smith
Date29 May 2003
Extent3 minidisc, 3 cds, 1 file, 3 AIFF files (2.31 GB)
Creator NameSmith; Sean; photographer
DescriptionInterview with Sean Smith, Guardian photographer. Conducted by Leslie Plommer on 29 May 2003. This interview is part of a series of interviews with Guardian staff who covered the Iraq War of March-April 2003. Also includes a data sheet containing biographical details about the subject and information about the recording.

Summary contents of interview (with rough timings):

Disc 1:
Track 1
00.09 Introductions
00.18 Guardian staff photographer based in Baghdad, Iraq, before and during the Iraq conflict of 2003
00.30 Based in Baghdad apart from visit to Basra
00.50 Being told he would be sent to Iraq
01.50 Had said to the Guardian that he wanted to go. Likelihood of war discussed
02.30 Issue of visas
03.20 Problems faced due to large number of journalists trying to go to Iraq
04.50 The Baghdad team consisted of Smith and Suzanne Goldenberg, a US correspondent based in Washington DC
06.40 First priority was to enter Iraq before the outbreak of the conflict, as this would make it easier to return later
07.20 'Charm offensive'. Carrying Guardian branded material as gifts
08.30 Previous experience of travelling. The importance of exchanging gifts

10.00 Making friendships with officials
10.30 Keeping their guide, Sa'ad Al-Samara, and Hayder, the driver, happy
13.00 Role of the guide
13.50 Problems of translations. Elements of comedy
15.15 Travelled with Goldenberg from London via Jordan. Receiving satellite phones
15.45 Arrival at Ministry of Information
16.15 Registration. Receiving press card
16.50 Working outside with no electricity. Problem of batteries running out on satellite phones. Restrictions on use
18.10 Memories of the areas of Baghdad
19.10 Remembers seeing books in Baghdad

20.25 Western magazines
20.50 Strangeness of society. Many doctors but a shortage of nurses and ageing hospital equipment
21.40 Football matches
22.30 Effect of sanctions on shops
23.00 Memories of Iran-Iraq conflict
23.50 Found the asylums reflective of the rest of society - due to shortages and corruption
27.00 Imploding of Iraqi society
29.00 Viewing photographs taken in Baghdad in 2003. Going to the races

30.00 Attending the Baghdad races. Race fixing
33.00 Attempts to make society more religious. Attempts to unify the country. Drinking alcohol banned in restaurants
34.50 People's response to Smith and Goldenberg
36.18 Discusses his photograph of parades
37.40 Presence of military figures on parade

40.00 The corrupt not interested in fighting conflict
41.05 Lack of organised or disciplined military
41.35 Distrust of phones
42.00 Propaganda from both sides. Manipulation of news
42.50 Taking photographs of smiling soldiers
43.40 Photographs of women and children with guns on parade
45.00 Damage to area from the 1980s still visible. Reminder of the cost of war
46.30 Discussion of his photograph of Shiite pilgrims in Karbala. Visiting shrines

50.10 Desire to show through photographs how much more was going on. Photographing family scenes
51.00 Lack of religious friction encountered
52.00 Desire for change
54.20 Continued fall out from the Soviet era
54.54 Discussion of his photograph of United Nations weapons inspectors visiting West Baghdad
57.00 Discussion of risks of chemical warfare and use of precautions
58.30 Limited use of flak jackets
59.45 Developing prints whilst in Baghdad. Fears of the use of an e-bomb which could cause electrical power outages

62.00 Problems of use of digital cameras whilst in the field. Extensive use of memory cards
62.55 Reaction of guide to photography
64.40 Lack of tradition of using pictures in Arab reporting
65.25 Guides and officials under strain. Their own fears about what was going to happen
66.30 Local obsession with health
68.32 Discussion of photograph of soldiers beside the tomb of the unknown martyr in Baghdad. Importance of monument marking the 1980s Iran-Iraq conflict
69.40 Attitude of Baghdad soldiers

70.15 His attempts to paint a different picture of the regime. Found in reality frayed uniforms and giggling solders
71.10 Discussion of his photographs taken inside the Ibn Rushd psychiatric hospital in Baghdad
73.30 Return to use of electric shock therapy due to lack of drugs available

Disc 2:
Track 1
00.10 Continued discussion of use of electric shock therapy at Ibn Rushd hospital
02.00 Pictures of Saddam Hussein throughout institutions
03.30 Discussion of his photographs of hospital patients including those being treated with electric shock treatment
04.45 Discussion of his photographs of Dr Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, a female Iraqi scientist, nicknamed 'Chemical Sally'
08.00 On the eve of war. Ongoing concerns over visas

12.50 Once the war started there were concerns about leaving the country
13.20 Little preparation by Iraq for war
15.20 Discussion of his photographs of air strikes on Baghdad. Use of hotels
17.40 Memories of first air strikes. Attack on foreign ministry and computer centre
18.35 Changes to timings of air strikes. Move from night to daytime strikes
19.10 Death of civilians through air strikes
19.30 Press bus tours. Growing paranoia about press movement. Threats made by officials to guides and drivers

21.00 Concern over movement of money
22.30 Time spent in hotels during bombing. Use of satellite phones restricted. Continued threat of the e-bomb
24.15 Satellite phones, cameras and film seized
25.20 His relationship with others. Understood the importance of treatment of others
26.20 Use of satellite phones in hotel room. Fear of seizure of equipment

30.15 Dislike of journalists and fears of conspiracy
31.00 Taking photographs at night
33.01 Discussion of his photograph of bomb damage in a residential neighbourhood. Fears over effect of photographs on Iraqi morale
34.50 Access to food and amenities
35.48 Problem of access to fuel. Storing petrol in a warzone
37.10 Keeping the atmosphere friendly
38.00 Carrying money. Cost of press coverage

40.30 Discussion of his photographs of towns. Remembers the keeping of rabbits
41.55 Excitement at shot down airplane
43.20 Discussion of his photograph of Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, following reports that he had been executed
45.00 Attendance at ministry briefings
45.30 Discussion of his photographs taken when air strikes hit a civilian suburban area. One of the first civilian injuries
46.30 Movement of information
47.20 Discussion of his photographs of market place bombing. Image of young child on stretcher being transferred to a civilian hospital
48.10 Reluctance of officials to allow them access to hospital
48.45 Flood of injured on hospital
49.15 Photographing the injured and the funerals of those killed in the market place bombing

50.30 Photographs of those mourning the victims of the market place bombing. Reaction to presence of press
52.30 Frustration on trying to access areas. Unable to work freely
53.50 Remembers seeing low range missiles whilst driving
55.00 Discussion of his photographs of Iraqi streetlife including image of father with child in mock military uniform
56.00 Continuation of life during wartime
57.30 Discussion of his photographs of a family in home made bomb shelter
59.20 Bombing areas

61.10 Restrictions on press movement
61.40 Discussion of photograph of young injured boy in hospital
63.00 Remembers injuries seen
63.20 Press access to hospitals
64.00 Military sensitivity over the photographing of injured soldiers
64.40 Looting of hospitals
65.40 'Casual randomness' of violence of war
68.47 Discussion of his photographs showing a burnt out American tank on the outskirts of Baghdad
72.03 Discussion of his photograph of an Iraqi in hospital with burn injuries
73.30 Discussion of his photograph of a brother and sister at hospital, who were dead on arrival

Disc 3:
Track 1
00.10 Continued discussion of his photographs taken at Al-Kindi hospital, Baghdad. Breakdown of military command
01.35 How their movement was affected as the conflict progressed
03.05 The Palestine hotel hit by tank fire
04.45 Uncertainty of war
06.00 Discussion of his photograph of a dead Iraqi in a car
07.00 Continuation of daily life during war
07.48 Discussion of a set of his photographs of the toppling of a statue of Hussein

11.15 Distortion of history easy
12.20 Arrival of tanks
13.43 Looting
14.40 The burying of bodies by American soldiers
15.45 Access to the presidential compound once sezied by the Americans
16.49 Discussion of his photographs taken at Al-Yarmouk hospital, Baghdad including the burial of patients and a photograph of an injured young boy. No doctors still in attendance at hospital. Escorted injured boy to another still functioning hospital

20.55 Discussion of his photograph taken at Al-Escan hospital, Baghdad, where patients were transferred to
23.00 Saddam Hussein as seen in portraits. Idolised images of leader
24.20 Discussion of his photographs of militia road blocks
27.40 Discussion of his photograph showing palace lootings
29.00 People of Tecrete, Iraq, the assumed hometown of Hussein

30.00 Extravagance of Iraqi palaces
32.45 Incident of man having his ear burnt by hair curling tongs
33.40 Implosion of society
33.50 Discussion of his photograph of a looter who was beaten to death
36.00 Discussion of his photograph of an unexploded ordnance. Injuries caused
38.20 Discussion of his photograph of an abandoned mental hospital with prison wing
39.40 Attempts of locals and Red Cross to maintain the hospital, the only long-term mental hospital in Iraq

43.25 Thoughts at end of trip
44.50 Leaving Iraq. Guardian wanted to remove journalists. His desire for stay for longer to produce feature on adult mental patients
45.50 Joined Sunday Times journalists who were leaving
46.10 Injured his knee whilst visiting secret prison
47.40 Drove to Oman through desert onto Jordan
48.10 Fears over taking possibly looted treasures outside of Iraq
48.48 Flying back to England
49.00 How this conflict compared to other war coverage Smith had undertaken previously. More difficult working in Iraq

50.00 'Paralysis of bureaucracy' made his work difficult
54.00 Feeling of being an end of an era
56.00 'Ghosts' of Vietnam
57.00 Revised history of region
58.20 Lessons to be learnt by the Guardian for future war coverage. Use of features rather than just rolling news of events

61.30 Poor communication between editorial staff at home and journalists in the field
64.00 Restrictions on use of phones
67.00 Frustrations faced during war coverage
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsAccess to recording via GNM Digital Repository
FormatElectronic record
CD recording
Minidisc recording
Printed document
CopyrightGuardian News & Media Ltd and Sean Smith

Show related Persons records.

NA360Middle East
    Powered by CalmView© 2008-2024