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© Jerome Delay

Inside Iraq: Pictures by Jerome Delay
Introduction by Jon Lee Anderson

In his novel, The Plague, Albert Camus portrayed the lives of a group of ordinary people in a fictional city, threatened by a terrifying pestilence from within. Quarantined from the outside world, they are forced to come to terms with the prospects of death and survival by themselves. There are no lifelines, no rule books to follow; all they have to guide them are their own instincts, and what each of them possesses in the way of moral compass. In the end, The Plague is a literary examination of how normal people behave under abnormal circumstances.

Let us fast forward to the present day, and into the real world, to Iraq, where a military invasion led by the United States has been threatened for months, and which now seems closer by the day. War can only be averted, it has been said, if Iraq’s ruler, Saddam Hussein, disarms himself and gives up power. But he has refused, and has sworn to fight back and to defeat his enemies massing their troops on his borders. What does this situation mean for the ordinary Iraqis? What is it like for Iraqis to live their lives on the brink of a great war which is not of their choosing, in which their dictator may die, but in which they, and their children, may also be killed?

In a society like Iraq’s, where it is extraordinarily difficult for people to speak what lies in their hearts and minds, it seems appropriate that we try and gain some clues through images. In this series of stunning photographs taken in Iraq by Jerome Delay over a five-month period, from October 2002 to March 2003, we see Iraqis at work, at play, caught unawares and on display, in their public and private lives, all of them living against the backdrop of approaching war.

Delay shows us glimpses of the political game of cat and mouse being played out in Iraq; the UN weapons inspectors on their visits to factories and weapons sites, the guards at the gates of one of Saddam’s palaces; the militias out marching on the streets. But he also shows us the larger Iraqi reality, that of ordinary people living their lives steadfastly, adhering to the routines that are the stuff of people’s daily lives everywhere. We see young adolescent boys, dressed to impress and smoking cigarettes and listening to a boom box on a street somewhere; a teenaged girl in a crowd, aware of her beauty, flirting with someone out of sight; a boy sitting alone with his own thoughts sitting, as boys do, on a railing; families at play in an amusement park; people alone and together, most of whom have barely noticed the momentary intrusion of Delay’s camera lens.

In the end -- and this is Jerome Delay’s great achievement -- what we are left with is the sense that the Iraqis, Saddam or no Saddam, are pretty much like us, whether we live in Akron or Montpelier, that they seem to like to do much the same things we do. Looking at Jerome Delay’s Iraqis, I come away with the distinct feeling that if we were to ask any of them what they most want out of life, they would tell us that they want above all to live their lives to the fullest, and to survive to see their children grow up healthy and wise.

© Jon Lee Anderson

Jon is married with three children. Born California, USA, January 15,1957. Raised and educated in South Korea, Colombia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Liberia, England, and the United States; attended University of Florida 1975-77. Since then, have lived in Peru, U.S.A, Honduras, El Salvador, United Kingdom, Cuba, and Spain. Currently residing in Dorset, England. Jon is currenty a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.

Baghdad Today
by Jerome Delay

Al Rashid hotel, Sunday noon. The view spans from the martyr’s memorial to the left to the old airport to the right. Cars speed on the six lanes throughfare and a few guests enjoy the pool below. Strait ahead lays Iraq’s largest mosque, still being built. Diner at Nabil’s last night was ok, American journalists sharing the next table with top UN

At first sight, this is a normal town, with normal folks going about with their normal lives.

Back in the Press center, 300 plus journalists hang all day in a cloud of smoke and dust. All TV sets are tuned to either CNN, BBC and Al Jazira. Seen from there, War has already started. Conversations here are centered on two main subjects : "Did you get a visa extension ?" "So, when do you think it’s going to happen ?"

For the past four months, I have been covering daily life and UN activities here for the Associated Press. I have entered people’s homes and photographed the constant ballet of foreign dignitaries looking for their Nobel Peace Prize. I have chased UN inspectors for hundreds of kilometers through the Iraqi desert and covered military parades and demonstrations. I witnessed the jails being emptied.

It is not easy. There are lots of things we see which we cannot photograph. Our guides make sure we do not stray. But is it really different from working with US public Affairs officers? Have you tried to take a picture in the Paris subway lately?

These pictures are not meant to be a comprehensive reflection on the Iraqi society. They were transmitted on a daily basis to thousands of newspapers and magazines world wide on the AP wire. This is the place on the receiving end of cruise missiles.

© Jerome Delay

Jerome Delay is an international photographer for the Associated Press. He is French and based in London, lives in Paris, and works in Baghdad. He is married with two teenage daughters, one large and mad dog, and has two very big mortorcycles. Jerome studied Communications at University of Grenoble, France, Then went on to study Photojournalism at Columbia, Missouri.

Enter Inside Iraq

Video Presentation

Interview with Jerome Delay
Camera by: Greg English

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Twenty Years of War Coverage
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Baghdad - Ground Zero
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Baghdad - Currently, It's Just Like Any Other Town
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False Sense of Reality
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How Will We Cover the War?
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The Images are Just a Reflection of What I See
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Fear Factor
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Pictures, Portraits, Paintings, Sculptures...
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Children of Baghdad
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