Hey Redditors! My name is Robert, and I am a war photographer. User DeerStag has requested an AMA. So here we are! Bring on the questions!

Find me at www.facebook.com/RLCunn, and the Afghanistan work at www.facebook.com/AfghanistanBook. www.instagram.com/embedrob/ www.twitter.com/embedrob

Here's my bio-

"Robert L. Cunningham is a still photographer who has carried his cameras in over 24 countries around the world. Born and educated in the US, Robert developed a love of photography at a very young age. His professional work in photography started as a photojournalist for news companies, with his work appearing in multiple national and international publications and broadcasts including: National Geographic, ABC, BBC, Business Insider, CBS, Fox News, Huffington Post, MSNBC, NBC, Army Magazine, and Reader's Digest. In 2011, he began working as a war correspondent. With multiple combat embedments spanning from 2011-2014, Robert worked throughout Afghanistan, primarily beside the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry, 10th Mountain, and 101st Airborne Divisions. Based in the US, he works worldwide on documentaries, feature, television and marketing/advertising projects and is the recipient of numerous awards. Robert is the author of a photography book centered on the US military presence in Afghanistan, and a contributor to multiple other books and publications. His work has been exhibited and published around the globe and is included in the archives of the George W. Bush Presidential Library. Robert has served as the Chairman of the Multimedia Advisory Board at the East Valley Institute of Technology in Mesa, Arizona. Robert is a member of the National Press Photographers Association, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, Nikon Professional Services, and the American Photographic Artists." Some of my work is view-able at www.robertcunningham.com and www.embedrob.com http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/24/afghanistan-on-the-bounce-reflections-on-life-on-deployment/ http://www.businessinsider.com/robert-l-cunningham-photos-war-in-afghanistan-2014-4 http://www.businessinsider.com/incredible-images-of-the-end-of-afghan-war-2014-12 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/26/afghanistan-on-the-bounce_n_5379686.html http://www.rd.com/slideshows/photos-of-lasting-interest/#slideshow=slide5

Link to Proof that it's me- https://instagram.com/embedrob/p/0JR0XawaQT/ https://twitter.com/embedrob/status/576152789266530306 https://www.facebook.com/RLCunn/photos/a.187849464650143.28816.143283145773442/627935117308240/?type=1&theater

Comments: 94 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

skyraiderofreddit28 karma

Which country had the biggest contrast between natural beauty and the ugliness of the human conflict occurring there?

embedrob29 karma

Personally, I found Afghanistan to be a beautiful country, with a beautiful culture. It was hard to watch outside forces fight in that battle ground. For the record, to me, outside forces means the US, Al Qaeda, Haqqani network, and most recently, ISIS (or whatever you call them).

embedrob1 karma

I always wanted to go to Bamyan! I tried this last time in Afghanistan, but was unable to get there.

idunnoforsure15 karma

When I view war photography, how can I tell the difference between what is an authentic representation of war and what is paid, staged, propaganda?

embedrob27 karma

Well, I can say this- none of my stuff is staged. I like candid shots. But if you can figure out how to reliably detect propaganda, from either side of the aisle, Let me know.

This was a real big deal for me. There were times when I was asked not to put something out that I had photographed. I fought hard to make sure that the reason not to was a sound one.

The military was very nervous of being accused of affecting the media, and the push to show things or not to show them came more from civilian editors than the military.

suaveitguy13 karma

I have asked this of documentary filmmakers and photographers, and it has offended more than a few. I am not asking it from an accusatory place, just a feeling I have working on/viewing some docs in particular. Do you ever feel guilt, or feel conflicted, about getting benefit from other peoples troubles?

embedrob54 karma

This is anything but offensive. I am glad you asked.

In my case, I look at two things- first off- I paid my own way there. I was not paid to go. I bought my own gear, my own flights, everything. So, if you do the math for all of that, I would have to sell 66,500 copies of the book Afghanistan:On The Bounce from www.afgotb.com to break even. I promise you this- If I sell that many, I'll donate the money made after that to charity. I didn't do this to make money.

Secondly, I think of a soldier named Raymond D. who I met on my first trip there. I had just finished dinner, and a storm came in. I raced through the hail and rain to get to the protection of the guard shack, where I found Raymond. Over the course of the next few hours, we talked about all kinds of things. As I left, once the storm had ended, he said "Thank you." Taken aback, I turned to him and said "For what? You are the one over here getting shot at for a year.....not me." and he replied "You make us feel important." I was speechless for a moment.

Over the last few years, I have done my job. Apply that question to fireman and other first responders. Should a fireman feel guilty because he gets paid when someone's house burns down? Should an ambulance driver feel bad about getting paid to drive a stab victim to the hospital? What photojournalists due is draw attention to life, the good, and the bad. My opinion only.

unburnt_khaleesi8 karma

Have you ever been in a situation where you were close to being taken hostage?

embedrob21 karma

Not in Afghanistan, but there was a few other places where that was a huge concern. In Afghanistan, I had soldiers around me, and they had lots of guns. :)

But I think back to a vehicle I was once in, in a small country in Africa, where there was only one person who spoke the language of the driver. We had explained to the driver where we were going, and he drove us most of the way there. As we got close, about 10 miles from our destination, the driver began to accelerate, well past our turn, heading to the country's border, only a mile or so in that direction. I knew that if we hit border, I would most likely not be coming back to the US. As my interpreter was yelling at the driver frantically, as we saw the border coming up, I grabbed my cameras, unbuckled my seat belt, placed my cameras tightly against my body, and began to curl up in a ball. I had already told the driver I was not, under any circumstance crossing that border. As the car raced towards the border, I told the interpreter that I was going to exit the vehicle. He relayed that to the driver, who only accelerated. So at well over 75 miles per hour, the border in sight, I opened the car door, prepping to leave, knowing in my heart I would rather jump than cross. At this point, the driver slammed on the brakes, and began to turn the car around. Needless to say, we did not employ his services after that.

scumbag-reddit5 karma

What is the mental image that sticks with you the most, good or bad?

embedrob10 karma

Good- the look on this kid's face, as we drew pictures on a pad of paper together. Divided by language, united by art. http://www.embedrob.com/gallery.html?gallery=People+of+Afghanistan&folio=Galleries&vimeoUserID=&vimeoAlbumID=#/5

A close second was all of the faces of the children when I took a picture of them, and they would forcibly turn my camera around so they can see the photos.

Bad- The back of this kid's head, and the face and arms of his sister. http://www.embedrob.com/gallery.html?gallery=People+of+Afghanistan&folio=Galleries&vimeoUserID=&vimeoAlbumID=#/2


Do you know exactly what happened to that kids head?

embedrob1 karma

It was a reportedly a spider or bug bite the night before, something that had hemotoxic venom, resulting in the severe dermonecrotic lesions visible, and as I said, this was the least of his or his sister's wounds.

defff_metal4 karma

Hello, I have two questions for you, What are your thoughts on the future of photojournalism?
Do you have any advice for someone pursuing a career in that field?

embedrob10 karma

The future is bright! Technological advances are huge, and that is letting more people in, and although this may mean some people who have no business there get in, it also means that others who are great at it can come join. In the end, it raises the art that is photojournalism, and allows for the proliferation of information.

Know your New York. If you wanted to get to New York, you could drive, fly, walk, whatever. How you get there is less important than doing everything to get there. I heard a very accomplished cinematographer once answer the question "Did going to film school help you?" with "How in the hell would I know? I would have had to live both lives, with and without film school, and then compare them to answer you. All I know is that I am here."

defff_metal2 karma

Thanks for responding! I love your last answer

embedrob3 karma

I stole it from my granddad. It was one of his statements, at least the New York part.

kjoro3 karma

Has there ever been a moment where you've forced yourself to stay behind the camera and not get involved in what is in front of you?

embedrob5 karma

I understand the spirit behind the question, but it requires two answers. One- yes, there have been times that have been heartbreaking, where I had to do nothing more than photograph. Times in the hospitals, in fights, in meetings that were maddening to watch, where you just want to scream. There are many things I have photographed that no one will ever see.

Two- When you look through a lens, your peripheral vision becomes degraded. Your focus becomes restricted to only that which you see. If your lens is much longer than 35 mm or 50 mm, you are 'zoomed in' on something, something closer than your natural eye sees. You have to focus on that which is in the lens. this puts you very much 'in' to what you are shooting. There is no way to do this and not be 'involved' with the situation.

LuciferFan13 karma

Hi, what's the most challenging photo(s) you've ever had to take and does your job ever get really dangerous? I'm sorry if my questions are silly, but I'm honestly not familiar! Best!

embedrob3 karma

These aren't silly questions, it is a "Ask Me Anything" isn't it? :)

Most challenging? As in technically hard to take ones? or ones that are emotionally challenging? Technically hard to take- low light night time no flash shots. I hate flashes, just fyi.

Emotionally- I hated this one, and ones like it- http://www.rd.com/slideshows/photos-of-lasting-interest/#slideshow=slide5

DebDecatur0073 karma

So war photography is your love. What is your stress relieving hobby or your passion when not working?

embedrob14 karma

Rebuilding Star Wars filming locations! I went to Tunisia with a bunch of friends and rebuilt Luke Skywalker's house. https://www.facebook.com/groups/136826779662292/ www.savelars.com.

definitive_2 karma

What were some of your early inspirations? What made you go into war photography?

embedrob3 karma

Well, they are still inspirational to this day! Annie Leibovitz, Cali Bagby, Eric Draper, Pete Souza, Mike Boettcher (@IAmMikeBoettcher) and Carlos, his son- (@OfficialBoettcher). All great inspirations. I also like the painter Pino.

My friends pushed me into it, actually. I was asked by some friends to go do it. No kidding.

TKDbeast2 karma

What inspired you to become a war photographer?

embedrob3 karma

My friends pushed me into it, actually. I was asked by some friends to go do it. No kidding.

TKDbeast2 karma

Wow! You must have some great friends!

embedrob3 karma

I do. They have supported me through some hard times.

MrChris332 karma

I never, ever, understood how you guys dont get killed....I mean, if I was at war and I saw an enemy photographer, I would still fire at him.....the enemy is the enemy, camera or rifle, im still gonna shoot you. So how are you photogs not killed?

embedrob2 karma

Being that the Geneva convention considers non-military photographers as non-combatants, specifically targeting them would be considered one of two different things, depending on your view point. One term is "total war", the other is a "war crime". I do certainly understand the sentiment, as 'war is hell' and the rules made by people far away from the battlefield often don't factor into the realities of lethal conflicts. In short, I am surprised by it as well.


How are you?

embedrob7 karma

I'm excited. This is actually my first time on Reddit, and this is really cool. #newb

SuperAlbertN7-6 karma

Then I have to say that on reddit we link to fake subs instead of using hashtags so like this /r/newb :)

embedrob1 karma

Yup! I get that, It was a joke, as in I am so new at this, I still use hashtags on reddit. To be honest, I asked the person I was with, an avid redditor about hashtags on reddit before I posted it. It was just an attempt at humor. :)

Hambone762 karma

Years ago, I did stringer work shooting fires and other emergency scenes. I was also a fireman, so I was able to get "inside" so to speak. Even still, it was hard to get my work noticed and it took a while to really get rolling with the local and trade editors. Do you deploy already under contract, or do you shoot and then hope to get your stuff picked up? What kind of logistical support do you get?

embedrob5 karma

It is no different today. Getting noticed is hard. Selling your work is hard work.

When I went, I was under contract with one agency. They weren't paying, but they promised publication. I shot for the book, Afghanistan: On The Bounce. I intentionally went without backing, by anyone. That way no external source, editor or the like, could tell me what to show or not show. I just wanted to show the truth on the ground, and let the reader decide their opinion.

I had and have a great staff of advisers and supporters- Jason H., Jason K., William, Meghan, James, Neil, Pam, Kurt, Este....and the list goes on. I could never do my job without these great people.

Mantisbog2 karma

War, what's it good for?

azzurro322 karma

Absolutely nothing

embedrob2 karma

To respond to this, I will quote from a classic book.

"My mother said violence never solves anything." "So?" Mr. Dubois looked at her bleakly. "I'm sure the city fathers of Carthage would be glad to know that."

“… I was not making fun of you personally; I was heaping scorn on an inexcusably silly idea — a practice I shall always follow. Anyone who clings to the historically untrue—and thoroughly immoral—doctrine that, ‘violence never settles anything’ I would advise to conjure the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee, and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedom.” - Colonel DuBois, Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein

DeerStag2 karma

What is your favourite photo you've taken in a warzone (please link if you can) and why?

Which conflicts have you captured?

embedrob5 karma

There are so many I am attached to. The photo of the soldier and the boy (link in the first post of the AMA, forgive me, I'm on my phone now, harder to link) is one of my favorites. The soldiers I was with were performing checks on vehicles, looking for VBIEDs, as some were reported in the area. We were just outside of a school, and when the U.S. military sets up a checkpoint outside of a school, the students are much more interested in that than school work. So the teachers drank chai, and the students sat by and watched, keeping their distance. This one kid, Rahman, came and sat amongst the soldiers, both US and Afghan. Bold kid. He was with us for 12 hours. It was moments like this that made for cool days.

As far as bullets flying conflicts? Afghanistan 3 times was good so far. :)

sir_lurk_alot072 karma

How and why did you decide to become a war photographer?

embedrob3 karma

Ok, So I have answered this a little in other posts, but why not expound upon it a bit? I love photography. To be able to capture with my camera what may be gone the next day, the next hour, the next second, to lock that moment in time in a semi-permanent capsule, to share it with others, is intoxicating. I am a historian at heart. To look back at images from the past, to briefly relive that time, to show families their history, these are some of the interpersonal reasons why I do what I do.

bryers2 karma

Have you ever experienced a sort of "moral dilemma" between photographing tragedy without getting involved in the war torn areas (being the artist in the background) and wanting to actually help those you're photographing? Would this spoil the authenticity of your photography?

embedrob3 karma

Great question.

Yes, I have faced such, and do quite often. Let's break your question up a bit. i

"Have you ever experienced a sort of "moral dilemma" between photographing tragedy without getting involved in the war torn areas (being the artist in the background) and wanting to actually help those you're photographing?"

Yes, there have been times that have been heartbreaking, where I had to do nothing more than photograph. Times in the hospitals, in fights, in meetings that were maddening to watch, where you just want to scream. There are many things I have photographed that no one will ever see. I have and do always want to help those hurting around me. So here is how I look at it, in situations such as war or car accidents or such. First thing I examine is "Is the situation an immediate threat to ANYONE's life, limbs, or eyesight?" If it is a threat to any of these things, the next question is "I am the best person here to handle this?" I say this, cause if there is a threat to life, say, from a sucking chest would from a gunshot, but their is a medic standing here, who is not tending to other injured, I would not jump in on it, as I am not a medic. Best thing I can do is get out of the way, and let the professional handle it, and be ready to assist as needed. But If there is not a medic there, and I feel that I should help I would. This is why I have sought to be trained in First Aid, and CLS training. But knowing the surroundings. If I am photographing in a hospital, I have no business trying to work on the patient, unless called upon to do so.
As for if helping them would "spoil the authenticity of your photography?" Well, they are two different things. I have a friend of mine who worked as a first responder, and now works as a photographer, often on crime scenes or such. In his case, he is often posting "the police were great tonight" after his photographing of a scene. He is very outspoken about his love and support of them. So, his authenticity is that his art shows their good side. We all have a bias of some sort, as even apathy is a bias.

As my buddy Jason says: "I would rather be authentically human first, and then be authentically a photographer."

I hope that makes sense.

embedrob3 karma

Furthermore, I feel that by doing my job to bring attention to the situation, it is a form of helping the person I am photographing. It gets people (who can do more than I can) involved.

mercwithamortgage2 karma

Robert, which services have you embedded with and which one is your favorite to go on missions with? As a military member, I appreciate the photos that you provide and your dedication to the services.

embedrob3 karma

All branches of the US military, including the Coast Guard, I have worked with. At risk of some teasing later on, I love the US Army Infantry. There is nothing quite like stepping outside the wire with those boys.

PianoVampire1 karma

What are your thoughts on the picture of a baby cradled in the American Flag that has caused so much controversy? If you aren't familiar with the story, here it is.

embedrob3 karma

Ok! A hot button, controversial question!

First off- let me say this- these are MY OWN views, not the views of others.

Ok. For years, I was the man tasked with raising the American Flag at my school. From when I was in 3rd or 4th grade, I volunteered to raise that flag. When I was in High School, I was in AFJROTC. Yep, I was one of THOSE kids. But I took the honor of wearing the USAF uniform seriously. Having had many family and friends serve, some in the USAF uniform, I took it VERY seriously. While the other kids snuck a cigarette at lunch, I would not, as I was in uniform, and the regs said no smoking in uniform. I polished my shoes nightly, I had ironed shirts with creases. My ribbon rack was measured with a ruler when I mounted it and my rank. I did Drill Team, I called cadence. If it had to do with Drill&Ceremony, I was there. I take heraldry and tradition as sacred.

My Color Guard and Flag detail was always run to spec. We counted our steps to and from the office where we picked up the flag. We counted the seconds that it took to salute the flag. We were 'militant' about our professionalism. There was no higher honor in my life at the time than to be the man who, in uniform, raised the Flag, saluted it, and carried it. Men I knew had died with that flag on their shoulder or chest. Coffins of my loved ones were draped in that flag. That flag is sacred to me.

In my adult life, there was an event where I watched as a former member of the US Air Force was asked to perform a Color Guard ceremony. He performed it, during which he did not abide by the exact military protocols, as he had not ever been trained in the exact D&C methods of a Color Guard. I knew what he should be doing, but having never served in the ACTUAL USAF or military, I could not say anything. I learned to look at the spirit of ceremonies, not the actual procedures of them.

Sometimes, people do a ceremony 'by the book' and it means very little. Sometimes people try to do a ceremony, put all the love and respect they can into it, and it doesn't go 'by the book', but respect and honor is maintained.

So- in that light, let's examine the photo, as seen in the post.

What was the spirit of the photo? Was it respectful? Was it honoring to the flag? In my opinion, yes. Would I do it? Probably not, but in my opinion, 'let freedom ring.'

THcB1 karma

Hi there Robert. I'm from South Africa and I was wondering if you ever met any of the guys from the Bang Bang Club?

"Bang-Bang Club" on @Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bang-Bang_Club

embedrob1 karma

Unfortunately not. That would be awesome. I have worked a lot with an photog who has worked throughout SA, but not those greats!

Natrenea1 karma

It takes a strong person to be a war photographer. Do you think any of your experiences has made you who you are today?

embedrob2 karma

Any of them? no. All of them. I am a very different person now than I was before Afghanistan. Things that I thought were impossible, or would never happen, have. Dreams I had came true. Magazines I read as a kid have published my work. If Afghanistan taught me anything, it taught me to dream big.

jpopepca1 karma

What got you into war photography?

Are there any times/places you can't photograph?

embedrob4 karma

My friends pushed me into it, actually. I was asked by some friends to go do it. No kidding.

Are there any times/places you can't photograph? Plenty! For all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, the people tell you you can't photograph here, other times, it's disrespectful to, sometimes it's 'unwise' to (as in, you can take the picture, but they will take you life, a bad trade off in most cases.) By the way, the great Marie Colvin gave her life for her images. Countless others have too. That aspect of war photography is always on your mind as you plan, but you forget it while you are doing the job.

Sometimes, I see something and a little voice inside me says "lower the camera, this is just for your eyes." These have been both things of great beauty, and things of great horror.

Theodurano1 karma

whats the difference between your job and a combat photographers job like the once working for every military branch? i wanted to be combat photographer but i dint get the job, not a citizen yet so i got aviation mechanic..

embedrob2 karma

They are similar jobs. I don't get weapon, so there is that difference, but they are similar jobs. I don't get a command structure, but I also don't have to follow rank protocol, so there are some ups and downs. I didn't have to go to boot camp, either. :)

As a personal note, thanks for serving. I worked in Afghanistan with many members of the US military that were not citizens of the US. I view that as a heck of an honor.

cp51841 karma

What's going on in afghanistan? Is it a power struggle between urban factions and tribal leaders?

embedrob1 karma

This is a very complex question to answer- in short, it is a combination of many things. Yes there are struggles between tribal leaders and other national leaders, just as much as there are struggles between state governors and national leaders in the US. But on the whole, the struggles of Afghanistan center on getting to stand own their own two feet, and be respected on the geopolitical scale. This is a battle of words and capabilities, not of guns. If Afghanistan can stand on its own, be secure within itself, then it could stand up to external influence, and make decisions for itself.

nycerine1 karma

During your career, which situation caused you to feel the strongest lack of control - and what was its story?

Basically, most dangerous time?

Bonus question: what is the biggest misconception or unknown fact about war photographers that the public has/doesn't know?

embedrob3 karma

Most lack of control? 7 August 2011. Eastern Afghanistan, sitting in the tactical operations center, watching as the aircrews, pilots, commanders, and such processed the loss of 38 lives aboard Extortion 17, long before their US families even woke up.

Most dangerous time, that's a hard one. One of the most terrifying moments came just a few days later, when we were prepping to take off in a CH-47 Chinook helicopter, and one of the intelligence guys came and told us that they had confirmed intelligence reports that once we took off, we would be shot down by two guys with an RPG at the end of the runway in a white truck. We could see them sitting there. That was a hair raising moment.

As for the bonus question- That's a great question.......a very hard one actually. I'll get back to you on that one.

Turkeytacobuttcheese2 karma

What happened to the guys in the truck?

embedrob4 karma

uhm.... #questionsIdidntask. :)

electrotape1 karma

How did you get into this line of work? What's your formal and informal education? And what path lead you to were you are now? How much of your work is not photography related (e.g. networking)?

embedrob1 karma

How did you get into this line of work? The details are throughout this post, so feel free to read on. Suffice it to say, a friend suggested it to me, and off I went.

What's your formal and informal education? Formal: AS in Software Engineering, BA in Digital Media, MA in Global Security Studies (forthcoming) Informal: Life. :)

And what path lead you to were you are now? A friend's suggestion.

How much of your work is not photography related (e.g. networking)? Depends on the day, but while at war, 70% is photography, 30% is networking with the servicemembers. In the US, it is a bit closer to a 40% / 60% photos to networking ratio

MungoProudFoot1 karma

Hi, thank you for doing this. I have a few questions:

  1. How did you start with photography in general? Where did you learn it?

  2. Do you look differently on soldiers now then before you went to Afghanistan?

  3. Do you have a blog?

  4. What are your plans for the future?

embedrob1 karma

How did you start with photography in general? Chasing the family feline around the back yard with mom's camera.

Where did you learn it? I have only had an afternoon class on photography in late 2010. The rest has just been mentorship from others.

Do you look differently on soldiers now then before you went to Afghanistan? Yep. That's a whole nother conversation. And yes, I know that 'a whole nother' is not a proper phrase, but the short answer to your question is yes.

Do you have a blog? I am working on that, I will have to update you when I get it up and running. It will be at www.robertcunningham.com no doubt. Sorry!

What are your plans for the future? I hope to be moving back East, near or in Washington DC for my next job, hopefully. :)

DeleteTheWeak1 karma

Who are some of the photographers that you admire, or inspired from in your field?
Who's work inspires you that isn't in your field? Who would you like to work with in the future? Favorite lens?

embedrob1 karma

In field: Mike Boettcher (@IAmMikeBoettcher) and Carlos, his son- (@OfficialBoettcher) Cali Bagby, Out of Field: Annie Leibovitz,
Would love to work with: Eric Draper, Pete Souza, Grant Miller, Paul Morse Favorite lens? That's a hard one, they all serve a good purpose. But knee-jerk? 85 mm Prime.

SilentlyCrying1 karma

Why take pictures of war, doesn’t it get to you after a while?

embedrob1 karma

Not "after a while". It gets to you immediately.

It is a specific calling, to be sure. But I feel that it is a necessary position.

The position of war photographer serves many purposes. Not only does it document the conflict for the future, the photographs can be used to corroborate crimes or to prove that accusations were false, they preserve things for all time that war can take away.

thwhdu1 karma

Have you seen the movie "A Thousand Times Goodnight" with Juliette Binoche as a war photographer trying to adjust back to normal life, and if so what do you think of it?

embedrob1 karma

I have not, thank you for the recommendation. I watched the trailer, and will have to watch the movie.

Roy_Vzla1 karma

Do you do film? or digital? many photographers carry a film camera on their pockets JIC

embedrob1 karma

I shoot now more with digital, as in places like Afghanistan, you can't really carry your own dark room with you, and in this day of instant news and information, digital is much faster to get to the end user. I did carry a film camera, and do use them, I just use that more as art, rather than news cycle stuff.

Also, I was able to make over 65,000 frames of Afghanistan, where as with film, that would be cost prohibitive.

I am against the "spray and pray" mentality that you should just let the shutter fly, and I take the time to compose a shot as if it was film, but in many cases, digital capture devices have assisted in getting what I needed.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages. They are just tools. :)

Roy_Vzla1 karma

Have you ever cried, while taking a photo?

embedrob1 karma

Oh, oh yes. There has been many times where I could barely hold it together as I photographed, and then had to go somewhere private or with trusted confidants and fall apart. I feel there is no shame in that.

Again, When you look through a lens, your peripheral vision becomes degraded. Your focus becomes restricted to only that which you see. If your lens is much longer than 35 mm or 50 mm, you are 'zoomed in' on something, something closer than your natural eye sees. You have to focus on that which is in the lens. this puts you very much 'in' to what you are shooting. There is no way to do this and not be 'involved' with the situation.

Nobium1 karma

What camera do you shoot with and what other gear did you bring along?

embedrob1 karma

Digital Capture Cameras: Nikon D3S, D4, D700, D800, Canon 5DMk3, Olympus Tough TG-2 for selfies :), Leica M-P, and Leica Monochrom. Gear: armor, helmet, multi-tool, good boots and shoes, load-bearing-equipment (a Y-harness with a belt.) a pack on the belt, laptop, data cards, gloves, and a backpack with changes of clothes, gear, and such. As a war photographer, you should be able to carry all of your gear on you person, so when you are moving from one place to another, you can do it with your feet, without a cart. Be light as you can be. Some photos of me in my gear can be seen here: http://www.amazon.com/Robert-L.-Cunningham/e/B00IWEFA4M/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1426538908&sr=8-1

mfp321 karma

How does one get into being a war photographer such as your?

embedrob1 karma

Work hard, get good grades in school, get a hair cut, clean your room, NOT! Just kidding.

There are many paths. First, love photography. Love to share the stories of others. STUDY ARTWORK. Not like 'go to school for art' but visit museums. Study great painters. Watch and study light. Study a culture that interests you. Then, find someone to send you there.

Take photo's every day. Even if it is just with your phone.

Find a passion, get driven, then create YOUR OWN path.

agentdarko1 karma

How hard is navigating the social/cultural nuances? Have you ever accidentally gotten yourself in shit?

embedrob3 karma

It can be a challenge. I read up on the culture, found Afghans living here in the states and had tea with them, and was educated on that. I referenced handbooks put out by military and political entities on how to interact. I am reminded of a day where I kinda bothered my then-Air Force protection detail when I entered a restaurant (really just a shack with a griddle and a hot tea maker) while we were out and about. The owner of that restaurant had offered me tea and some potatoes, and I accepted. What up set the Airman was that when I got inside, I took off my body armor, my helmet, and my shoes. The Airman went "Christ, Cunningham, they are gonna kill ya, and I'll have to explain why you weren't wearing your armor!" To which I replied "He's feeding me. If he wants to kill me he will poison me. Armor doesn't work against arsnic." Culture dictated they the armor be removed as well as my shoes, so I did. Obviously it turned out ok.

I have misspoken a time or two, walked into the wrong building (culturally) shook a woman's hand when I wasn't supposed to, but all in all, I have dodged major offense. Training, education, and the spirit to be polite and respectful goes a long way.