Monday, June 1, 2009

In War, I Found Myself

During my training last week, I was disgusted after viewing raw video footage of a student being struck by a bullet in the Middle East. Through the whole ordeal, the cameraman on the scene found it exciting to capture the student falling to the ground. With multiple angles, he cold heartedly shoved his camera into the students face as he laid there dying, screaming in pain. As a shooter who has worked in hostile environments, I was sad to see a fellow photog being blinded by his own lens. It inspired me to write the short journal entry below:


When I was younger, my dream was to one day film in war zones. At night, I'd read extensively about the Vietnam war, about the men and women of Alpha company landing in hot LZ's (landing zones), and how friends and foes would shed their blood, take a life, lose life. But in the midst of it all were the photographers capturing images that gave meaning to life, the living and the dead. It brought the war closer to home--made it real, and forever changed the perception on the price of freedom. So as a child of war, I wanted to become one of them--the men with the lens, the dashingly-cool bunch of guys that pointed glass at the enemy, those who saw the world by frames per second.

In retrospect, my dream has come true. I've lived that dream—stared fear in the face of danger, saw beauty in darkness, solace and grace, and witnessed the world unfolding in an utterly profound, yet definitive state. I've seen horror through a lens, felt the ground beneath me drown in pools of blood and even held the frigid hands of a dying marine I've never met. In war, I found myself. I found the man in me that I dreamt of as a child. In war, I realized that I am more a man not because of my bravery or how I find lust with light, but because in the midst of chaos, I am able to still see eye to eye with those who stare at my lens. I see life, not headlines. I see fear and pain. I hear prayers.

I have hope. Hope in humanity, in dignity, and in all who are stewards of the bounty around us.


TheChicGeek said...

Ron, you are a beautiful man with a beautiful attitude. I'm so thankful for people like you that can still maintain integrity and see the big picture, documenting what you see with compassion. Thank you for being a bright light in our world :D
Blessings Always!
Kelly aka TheChicGeek :D

The Rambler said...

This is so beautifully written.

I have to agree with thechicgeek that I am thankful people like you are around still.


floreta said...

i see life, not headlines... such a great line!! you are one of the most compassionate people i know and i can certainly see how your background shaped you and lead you to your career decisions.

Dan Denardo said...

Brilliantly conceived and written, Ron. We've come to expect that from you, but we'll never take it for granted. Your words AND your pictures are your art.

DUTA said...

Great Post!!!Moving words!

War is an ugly, bloody thing. People in war zones are likely to loose their humanity like that photographer of the dying student.

This is where censorship comes in. Photography of this kind should never be allowed,-it's pornography at its worst, as it takes away the last shred of dignity left in another God's creature, who was apparently less fortunate than the photographer.

Ron said...

Thank you all for your very kind words and for reading my ramblings.

Duta: You nailed it when you said "this is pornography at its worst!" I couldn't agree with you more! And you're right, the hardest thing in a war zone is to keep your humanity at check.

Sarah, The New Girl said...

What a great post, Ron. I always wonder... when watching something corny like the evening news, and they tell you about the murder of someone, and then you see the mom of that someone, tears in her eyes and a camera in her face... and it makes you wonder. I'm watching it, so am I the problem? It can just feel so wrong sometimes.

As for the photographer you mentioned, taking pictures of the dying student... I just can't imagine. But I think you put it perfectly-- it's not wrong to be there, to capture those moments, to certify the harsh or brutal sides of war... but it is important not to forget what you're taking pictures of. that those are people. I think it's inspiring that you've held onto that.

Kristy said...

What a great post . . I'm starting to expect that from you.

The Young Travelers Mom,

Subhanjan said...

Do you really think Ron that there is hope? Personally speaking I have much doubt. With each passing day I see people becoming more and more ignorant of even common sense of what is wrong and what is right. Man is blinded by illusions, whether he is behind the lens or in front of it. I do not forget that there is a lot of good in this world that is keeping the world alive in spite of so much bad crawling on its surface like worms. But I seriously think that that good is not enough and that it is becoming scarce with every passing day. I see little hope Ron. Little hope.

Hillbilly Duhn said...

That was indeed beautifully written. Though, I do have a question:

When it comes to a moment, a brink between take the picture or save a life, would you put your camera down and loose the shot and save the life or take the shot and loose the the life?

I'm assuming from previous posts, since I am a big fan of yours, that you would indeed put the camera down and save the life. In that, there is hope.

Subjanhan may feel otherwise, however, it only takes one person, ONE to make a difference, especially if his or her voice is heard. Only one. Hope.

Hillbilly Duhn said...

ps. whoops spelled dude's name wrong. *Sorry*

Anonymous said...

Ron... this is a fantastic post. Although I must admit, I am never comfortable with censorship. It sounds like that particular photographer has his own lesson in life to learn, and despite the fact that he doesn't see the error of his ways now, we can only hope that he will at some point in the future. That in the quest for 'the shot' he's undermining not only the humanity and dignity of the person he's photographing, but he's also undermining his own humanity and dignity.

Bon Don said...

That's why I love you Ron! miss you BBF! Hope everything is going well :)

SearchingSoul said...


You are one of my favorite bloggers and you never fail to satiate my thirst for reading beautiful and profound thoughts. Thanks for always sharing. Be well always.

John said...

Dude, you're on the right track. Keep up the faith, and thanks for sharing.

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