Anthony Suau has photographed world events for many years but this is the first time he has turned his attention to his home country, the US. The book documents most of 2003 taking us from pre-Iraq war diplomacy at the United Nations, through the declaration of war and on to the conflict. The opening picture is inside a CNN studio showing a large screen with “War in Iraq” emblazoned across it. The dramatic graphic immediately reminds us of the omnipresent media in Western civilisation, so ubiquitous we are often oblivious to it. The bombing of Baghdad is shown from many angles on huge screens on the streets of New York. In only one of the images do the pedestrians seem to have noticed the dramatic images above their heads.
Later, the capture of Saddam Hussein is shown as a series of television screens across a single spread thus leaving us to make our own conclusions. Newspaper vending machines are seen frequently showing us the headlines including “It’s War” and “Attack in Iraq”, while in San Francisco they are used to block a street during one of the anti-war demonstrations. Intense feelings were aroused by the war and nowhere is this more evident than when demonstrators from both sides clash. The pro-war supporter telling the anti-war advocates that “Saddam thanks you for your support”. The biggest crowd are at a rally supporting the troops.
In contrast, we are also treated to a journey across an America that is expressed by pithy tributes to troops. These are seen everywhere, outside diners and chapels while reminding passers-by to try “fresh tender home cooked turtle”. It is also an America that expresses its patriotism on anything from porches to grain silos.
The pictures are left to tell the story with short factual captions, interspersed with text charting the timeline of war. We are taken through events via a mixture of television screens and reality. The coverage of the subject is comprehensive, from the depths of the UN in New York to the Illinois funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. Although the images are powerful they feel somehow detached. Suau visited a bar in California on 17 March – the night Bush gave Saddam 48 hours to leave Iraq. The pictures are suitably atmospheric but using five is excessive.Some of the juxtapositions work very well but the book still seems more like a collection of pictures on a theme than a cohesive body of work.