These Photos Show The Brutal Reality Of Being Embedded With The US Military In Iraq And Afghanistan


Peter van Agtmael/Magnum

For as long as photographer Peter Van Agtmael can remember, he has been fascinated by war. While he was in fifth grade, the first Gulf War started. He followed it obsessively. When it ended just weeks later, he was secretly disappointed - he had hoped to go.

Ten years later, Van Agtmael was sleeping in his dorm room at Yale when the first plane hit the World Trade Center. In the coming weeks, he traveled to Ground Zero and photographed the aftermath for his college newspaper. When he graduated a few years later, America was in the thick of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; Van Agtmael decided that he had to document the "wars of [his] generation."

He spent three years preparing himself for the task, documenting conflict and dangerous situations around the world for various photo agencies. In 2006, he applied and was accepted to be embedded with the Army in Iraq.
Since that first tour, Van Agtmael has returned countless times to both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he has forged friendships, witnessed tragedy, and been woken up to the rude, brutal reality of American wars.

Van Agtmael has collected his work, covering the war abroad and soldiers' homecoming, in the book "Disco Night Sept. 11." He has shared a selection with us here, but you can check out the rest in the book, which can be purchased here.