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Wounded Child, Photo by Lori Grinker
6.20.03
Arts and Culture:
Photojournalist Lori Grinker
More on This Story:
Aboard the U.S.S. Comfort

I am not a war correspondent. I do war related stories. So I was actually quite relieved that they asked me if I wanted to go to the ship, which I felt was probably the safest place to be embedded. I didn't really have any specific thoughts about being embedded. I don't know if any of us did. We didn't find out until we were actually in it what it encompassed. -- Lori Grinker

NOW spoke with Lori Grinker last year about her series of photographs on the survivors of conflict, AFTER WAR. This year she got closer to conflict than ever. Grinker has just returned from 23 days aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort where she documented the efforts of the staff to treat wounded Americans and Iraqis.

Below are a few of the images Grinker took during her time embedded on the Comfort, and some images from AFTER WAR. Last year we asked NOW viewers to add their own captions to several of Grinker's AFTER WAR images, and some of their responses are included along with those pictures. You can read more of their comments and add your own caption to one of Grinker's new images at the Photo of the Week page.



Deck of USNS Comfort, Photo by Lori Grinker
USNS COMFORT
Lori Grinker spent her time aboard the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, a 1,000-bed medical treatment facility with 12 operating rooms. The ship is based in Baltimore and its crew of 300 are predominantly from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and about 60 civil service mariners from the Navy's Military Sealift Command, headquartered in Washington, D.C. The Comfort was activated Dec. 26, 2002, and returned to Baltimore on June 12, 2003.

The Comfort had 300 military medical and support personnel when its voyage began. In March, the military contingent expanded to approximately 1,100 personnel, including about 1,000 medical specialists, while the ship was on station in the Persian Gulf. During its time at sea, Comfort's Medical Treatment Facility treated more than 650 patients, including about 200 Iraqi prisoners of war and Iraqi civilians. More than 600 surgeries were performed, and nearly 600 units of blood were transfused.

Doctors reading X-ray, Photograph by Lori Grinker
THE DOCTORS
It was quite an amazing experience for me to be able to report this small part of the war story. I was extremely impressed with the medical care, with the technology that exists on the ship, with their abilities to treat the most horrendous wounds. And there were many burn victims that they did not expect...One of the orthopedic surgeons said that the injuries we're seeing in this war were different than anything they had seen before because of the velocity of the weapons. And the bodies were pulverized. It wears on you day after day.

-- Lori Grinker

Injured child aboard the USNS Comfort, Photograph by Lori Grinker
INJURED IRAQI CHILD
Taking photographs of the Iraqis was kind of shocking for me. Because I was here on this ship in the middle of the sea. And you really don't see anything but water. On occasion you can see the other ships. Some days you could land in the distance. So when you see the wounded come in, it really brings home the reality of the war. And that's what the pictures represent for me, and the human cost of war. And it's kind of a nightmare when you see these people coming in off the helicopters with all this apparatus, respirators, and their heads wrapped up. I think what happened was so many Iraqis began to come aboard because it was one of the best places to treat people.

--Lori Grinker

Crutches, Photograph by Lori Grinker
CRUTCHES — THE WOUNDED
There were many Marines who were in the battle in Nasiriyah on the ship. The Marine General came on one day to give them Purple Hearts. So several of them were in ward. A couple were in the ICU. And another fellow was in another ward just because this ward was full. So they went around to each young man. And went up to their bed and had a little background information on them and talked to them and related some stories and then gave them their Purple Heart.

--Lori Grinker

Otis, photo by Lori Grinker from AFTER WAR
OTIS, PLAYING WAR
This is in Liberia, in Monrovia. A few of [these boys] are former soldiers who had started fighting as young as eight years old. They're at a church service that's given by the John Bosco School for Boys. So after the church service, they started playing on the stage, and actually they're not playing war, they really know this. So they're running through the military drills.

In the case of the boy who's standing in the center, Otis, he was playing in his village with some friends and Charles Taylor, who was the NPFL leader then and now is the President of Liberia, his troops came by and they would just put them on trucks and take them away. He thought he was going someplace good, so he was happy. He actually was a colonel. They called him "Commanding Officer Dirty Ways." And he had six boys assigned to him, like guards, and 29 others behind him. The children were always given drugs in Liberia. And then they would go out and kill people... just horrific things. Sometimes they even had to commit atrocities against their own families to show loyalty to their commanders.

They were taken away from their villages very young. They had no schooling. So they were just beginning the first grade or second grade at age 14 or 15 in some cases. Hopefully, with proper education and psychological counseling, if they have access to that, they can be helped. But I think that the trauma of what they did and what they saw will come out more and more as years go by.

This boy Otis told me that he had this recurring dream that Charles Taylor would come up to him on the street and ask him for money and Otis would say to him, "You took me and you messed up my life and now you're coming here to ask me for money?" So he obviously knows that his life was deeply affected and changed by what was done to him. And you know, most of them wanted to go to school. That's what they wanted. They did not want to live on the streets for the rest of their lives. Their dream was to be able to go to school so that in the future they could find a job.

--Lori Grinker

Add a caption to OTIS.

Henry, Photograph by Lori Grinker from AFTER WAR
HENRY
Henry Green is a British veteran of the Korean War. He had a successful life, but when it came to the war, he just couldn't speak. He was in this group therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder. Every time he attempted to speak in the group he would start to cry.

The Korean War is one that's not talked about very much and the British call it, the nastiest little war. This was 1998 and he was in this group therapy session that met. He had only started this group about a year before. It took him over 45 years to find a place to deal with his war experience.

When he first came back, he didn't understand the problems that he was having, the psychological problems, and the sleepless nights, hallucinations. A few of the veterans in the Korean War that I've interviewed talk about seeing faces of people that they killed and sleepless nights or nightmares of the dead....Henry was saying that he knew something was wrong, but he never found anybody who wanted to know about it. He said you could only blunder on for so long. It's amazing to me that he actually didn't seem to blunder and he seemed to have, on the outside, a successful life. But certainly on the inside he is just now beginning to find some closure.

--Lori Grinker

Add a caption to HENRY

Photograph by Lori Grinker from AFTER WAR
VIETNAM: WOMAN WARRIOR
In Vietnam, women have been fighting for over 2,000 years since 3 B.C. They were called the long-haired warriors. Throughout history women have always fought. She joined with her family, except her mother, her father and her five siblings all joined. And she was actually the only one who was wounded. And women worked in all capacities, from building bridges to digging tunnels with teaspoons, to nursing and entertaining — the whole range of what women do in war. She absolutely felt that her role was justified, that they were fighting against invaders and they hated the Americans when they invaded them.

And, that now, it was different, that no war exists. So the feeling had changed. She said if we meet them in wartime we must kill them as soon as possible. But now in times of peace, we accept them into our homes, even the ones who dropped the bomb on the bridge where she lost her leg. She said the people are good, it's the leaders who are not so good, which I hear just about every place I go.

--Lori Grinker

Add a caption to Woman Warrior.

Biography: A native New Yorker, Lori Grinker began her career in 1980, while still a student at Parsons School of Design and The New School for Social Research. Her photographs, which range from the world of child boxing to landscapes in her ancestral Lithuania, and from September 11, 2001 to the recent Gulf War, have been featured in a multitude of magazines, books and television programs throughout the world.

Her photographs have been exhibited in the United States, Europe, and Asia, and are in several private and public collections including: The Jewish Museum in New York City, the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem, the Portland Museum of Art in Maine, the Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Cleveland Museum of Fine Arts, the @tlas collection, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the International Center for Photography in New York City.

Lori Grinker's first book, THE INVISIBLE THREAD: A PORTRAIT OF JEWISH AMERICAN WOMEN was published in 1989 (The Jewish Publication Society), and is now in its 5th printing. An exhibition of this work toured the United States from 1989-1992.

She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including the W. Eugene Smith Fellowship, the Ernst Haas Grant, the Hasselblad Grant, and the World Press Award. Since 1988 she has been a member of the international photographic agency, Contact Press Images (New York City, Paris).

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