David Guttenfelder’s fascinating photos of Afghanistan at war
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan
Published: August 17, 2019
The war in Afghanistan has attracted many interested parties and photographer David Guttenfelder is one of them. He traveled to remote countries such as North Korea numerous times but also been to Afghanistan for over 20 times since the 2001 US-Led invasion. His main aim here was to document the war and pinpoint its effects on the country’s development and growth. Guttenfelder got in the limelight when he captured a photo of a Marine in Pink Boxers shooting at the enemy.
A little about David Guttenfelder
David Guttenfelder is known as an award-winning photojournalist. His main focus is on global geopolitics and conversations. He’s the chief Asia photographer for The Associated Press, scaling up to a leading position thanks to his exceptional photography skills. Guttenfelder manages to make even the most obvious and something repelling things on the battlefield become aesthetically pleasing and appealing. This is all inspired by the photographer’s inborn sense of light and composition. With his precision in photography, David Guttenfelder has grown to the ranks of fellow iconic photographers.
Guttenfelder’s work in Afghanistan
The story behind Guttenfelder’s pink boxers photo
He became very famous after photographing an American soldier wearing pink boxers. During an assignment in Afghanistan in 2009, Guttenfelder took several pictures of the Korengal Valley of soldiers. They came to the surprise of many that would expect a conventional composition of soldiers under fire. His pictures instead showed exactly what is happening in Afghanistan that people from other corners of the world wouldn’t know. The photo shows specialist Zachary Boyd right after running out of bed. He wears a red T-Shirt and a pink boxer while returning fire to insurgents fighters. What comes as a simple thing later comes to reveal Zachary’s love for New York. The pink Boxer had a logo that says I Love NY.
This photo got the solder to the attention of the US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who later commented with a message that gave his soldiers morale. Any solder that goes to fight insurgents in Pink Boxers and flip-flops has a special kind of courage.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry take defensive positions at firebase Restrepo after receiving fire from insurgent positions in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on Monday May 11, 2009. Spc. Zachery Boyd of Fort Worth, TX, far left was wearing ‘I love NY’ boxer shorts after rushing from his sleeping quarters to join his fellow platoon members. From far right is Spc. Cecil Montgomery of Many, LA and Jordan Custer of Spokan, WA, center.
If you pay closer attention to the photo, you will realize that the soldier on the left has also run from a sort of activity. He is wearing silver trainers. You can imagine the impact of the war that transpires across a pretty little valley which is bisected by a river that flows through the outcrops. It may seem like a moment of firing, but upon closer inspection, the enemy remains invisible.
The photo is somewhat unsettling. You can imagine the transition from the comfort of being in bed to running to the battle with an enemy that knows the area well. This is what makes Boyd look more human that his fellow that are in full combat and ready for the war.
On another trip, David carried a recently purchased iPhone to Afghanistan, which he used to capture a photo that caught the eyes of many. Most of the people were mesmerized by the quality and the content of the picture. The images themselves were very clear and gave the exact details of the mundane lives soldiers are living in Afghanistan. Some of the photos include a photo of a comb, ride poppies, a makeshift urinal and flea-bitten skin of fellow journalists.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – United States Marines battle insurgent fighters inside a mud-walled compound near Now Zad in Afghanistan’s Helmand province
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S Marine John Daly, right, of Collingdale, Pa. and from the 2nd MEB, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines is helped by a fellow Marine after injuring his ankle in a fall when insurgent fighters opened fire on him and his squad inside a mud walled compound during a gun battle near Now Zad in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Saturday June 20, 2009
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S Marine Daniel Hinther of Helena, Montana, with the 2nd MEB, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines throws a hand grenade during close quarter battle with insurgent fighters inside a mud walled compound near Now Zad in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Saturday June 20, 2009.
The challenges of his work conditions
This photographer risked a lot to capture some of the photos, showing the existing conditions of both civilians and soldiers. Once he even climbed and sat in a branch of a leafless tree to avoid the rocks that were being rocketed by the supporters of Benazir Bhutto to the police. We know that still people in Afghanistan, including the civilians, soldiers, and the insurgents are being injured and killed every single day.
Calling David the photographer behind the man in the pink Boxer is like underestimating his abilities and shunning the importance of his work. I bet you can already understand the risk it takes to come to this extent. David is there with the soldiers every minute and at the same time relating with soldiers and marines in combat or patrols. It’s also challenging for him because he undergoes emotional and physical trials and at the same time enduring deprivation or isolation.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – An Afghan military helicopter crashes in the Panjshir Valley after a memorial ceremony marking the fourth anniversary of rebel commander Ahmad Shah Masood, Sept. 10, 2005. Two passengers were injured, but no one was killed. “I heard a loud screeching sound and children began to run away and I realized that one helicopter was coming back down, hard. It struck the ground. Chunks of the rotors the size of canoes flew end-over-end over our heads. Part of the landing gear flew 50 yards into a parking area, crashing through the back window of a car. The chopper caught fire and the soldiers had to rush to get the passengers out and fly the other helicopters away from the flames to safety. I guess I thought that there was no place to run at that exact moment so I just stood there and held down the camera shutter button, probably with my eyes closed. But it happened too fast to really put much thought into it.”
Guttenfelder on being on the battlefield
David, in an interview, said that some people are looking at the conflict often from a 30,000 feet level. For photographers, there’s no other way to look at war other than being on the battlefield and taking photos of the bullets as they hit and kill. He said that the closer you are to the target, the more precise the shot.
He also shared that soldiers are now taking more photos and videos of themselves. They email them home or even post them on their social media accounts. In most other situations, they usually set up little point-and-shoot video cameras in the middle of their gunfights with the enemy. However, the photos they typically take are just to show the lives they live. This is the main reason why David decided to venture in and get some clear shots of those kinds of real life.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – In Helmand Province, Afghanistan, a US marine surveys the barren landscape during a patrol
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Afghan National Army soldiers train on a firing range at a U.S. army base in the Pech Valley of Afghanistan’s Kunar province Sunday, November 1, 2009
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S. Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, pass by a poppy field
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – A US Army vehicle fires on insurgent positions on a mountain side, outside a base in the Pech River Valley of the Kunar province, Oct. 28, 2009. “This small combat outpost in the Pech Valley, called ‘Honaker Miracle,’ is attacked several times a week by insurgent rockets and mortars. The American soldiers respond with their own mortars, large caliber machine guns, and this type of gun truck. On this evening, it was getting dark. I climbed to the top of another similar vehicle parked next to this one, placed my camera flat and stable, and shot several-seconds-long exposures to make pictures in the low light and capture the red tracer fire as it streaked towards the mountainside.”
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – US Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade sleep in their fighting holes inside a compound where they stayed for the night, in the Nawa district of the Helmand province, July 8, 2009. “In July, the US Marines launched a 4,400-Marine air assault into Afghanistan’s Helmand province. It was part of what we were all calling ‘Obama’s Surge,’ the first troops who would have the new president’s signature at the bottom of their deployment papers. The unit I was attached to was sent to the northern part of the province to an area where NATO troops had never gone. “Most soldiers and Marines, when they come to Afghanistan, are sent to a pre-existing combat outpost so they already have a base to return to most every night. But these guys literally stepped off a helicopter in the middle of the night, in a hostile area, and started walking and looking for a home. It was more than 120 degrees. We walked as far as 10 miles a day for well over a week and carried all of our gear, food and water on our backs. And every night we made camp wherever we could. On the sixth night of the operation, we made camp inside a large mud-walled farmers field. Everyone dropped their heavy packs. The area was very open and vulnerable to mortar attacks so they guys were told to begin digging in the dark to make firing positions where each man would sleep for the night. I had to borrow a small collapsible spade from one of the Marines to dig my own grave-sized bed. It was too dark to make photos that night, and I was busy digging my own hole. I woke before dawn so I could make this photograph of the guys while most were still sleeping. The Marines paid rent to the farmer and damages to the field.”
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S. Marines, from the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, return fire on insurgent positions near the town of Garmser in Helmand Province, May 2, 2008. “During an air assault into Helmand River Valley, they came under rocket and small arms fire while they occupied a small farm compound. Several guys returned fire from behind the cover of a hard-packed dirt berm. Their gun fire was so intense that the recoils or concussions of their own weapons caused the berm to rise up into a huge dust cloud. The squad’s first sergeant started screaming for them to cease fire because none of them could see down range any longer. I shot several photos. In the first few you see at least eight or 10 Marines shooting in a line on the hill. Seconds later, when I took this photo, I could only see part of two men, and one of the brass cartridges ejecting from the M-4 and up into the dust cloud.”
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – The helmets, weapons, dogtags and boots of two fallen U.S. Marines stand alone at the end of a ceremony in their honor at Camp Bastion, in southern Afghanistan Tuesday, April 22, 2008. 1st Sgt. Luke Mercardante, 35, of Athens, Ga, and Cpl. Kyle W. Wilks, 24, of Rogers, Ark. died on April 15 when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb in. Both were assigned to the Combat Logistics Batallion, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Spc. Cecil Montgomery of Many, LA, right, from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry is treated by medic Pfc. Dorian Biberdorf of Bellevue, NB, inside a medical bunker at firebase Restrepo in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on Saturday, May 9, 2009. Montgomery’s leg, which was gashed in an operation two weeks ago, became infected and a medic had to open the wound to try to remove the infection and sterilize it.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Cpl. Casey Liffrig, left, leaps for cover as Lt. Thomas Goodman gets down as insurgent fighters ambush US soldiers during a patrol in the Pech Valley of the Kunar province, Nov. 3, 2009. “A platoon of soldiers had gone to a nearby village to tell the elders to stop the insurgent from passing through to attack U.S. targets. The villagers said they just wanted to be left alone. They claimed they had asked the insurgent to stay away, and wished the Americans would do the same. About 500 yards outside the town they soldiers were ambushed and insurgent gunfire whistled down from the mountainside. Pinned down in an irrigation canal and a rice paddy with only small walls and terraces for cover, soldiers began bounding two-by-two across open fields to take cover. It took air support from helicopters, and artillery, and the soldiers fighting back for four hours before they could retreat to safety. At one point in the battle ammunition ran low. A helicopter hovered into a river bed and shoved out bullets and grenades on a medical stretcher for them to retrieve.”
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – An American soldier at Camp Restrepo watches shells land on a insurgent position after militants attacked the outpost in Afghanistan on Friday.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – US Marine 2nd MEB 1st Battalion 5th
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S Marines Staff Sgt. Luke Medlin of Indiana and from the 2nd MEB, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines takes cover as a mortar fired by insurgent fighters explodes next to his vehicle near Now Zad in Afghanistan’s Helmand province Saturday June 20, 2009.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S. soldiers fire mortars at enemy firing positions from a base in the Pech River Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in 2009.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S. Air Force pararescuemen ride in the back of their helicopter on Oct. 10 with the flag-draped bodies of American soldiers
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S. Marines from 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment read and pack their gear under red light head lamps at a forward operating campsite in Marjah in Afghanistan’s Helmand province on Thursday February 18, 2010.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – U.S. Marines from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, 1st Battalion 5th Marines temporarily occupy an abandoned mud walled farm compound in the Nawa district of Afghanistan’s Helmand province Friday, July 10, 2009.
US Marine Cpl. Brian Knight, of Cincinnati, Ohio, pauses briefly in the heat to rest with his heavy pack filled with mortar equipment, ammunition, food, and water in the Nawa district of the Helmand province, July 4, 2009. “This is how this Marines spent the 4th of July. They were on the second day of a multi-day operation. It was around 130 degrees most of the day. They’d walked about six or eight miles that day but were very close to a stopping point. Everyone had to carry all of their body armor, equipment, weapons, ammunition, food, and water on their backs. Several men had collapsed with heat stroke or with broken or twisted ankles along the way. Cpl. Knight is a member of the mortar team so he also had to carry a heavy steel base plate of the mortar system on the top of his backpack along with heavy explosive mortars in his pack. He told us that he weighed only 125 pounds but was carrying 130 pounds.”
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Soldiers from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry fire mortars from the Korengal Outpost at insurgent positions in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on Tuesday May 12, 2009.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Spl. Taylor Jordan from the U.S. Army First Battalion, 26th Infantry lifts weights in the rain at his platoon’s base Camp Restrepo in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province on Friday May 8, 2009
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan
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David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Anti-insurgent fighters walk through the mountains north of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, December 2001
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – An Afghan fighter pops up from his tank to spot a U.S. warplane bombing insurgent fighters in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan on December 10, 2001.
David Guttenfelder – Afghanistan – Afghan boys play soccer in an empty and war-damaged Soviet occupation-era swimming pool in Kabul, Afghanistan, February 2005