In September 2002 Farah Nosh moved to Iraq, after graduating from the Western Academy of Photography in Victoria, British Columbia. At the time, the U.S. war drumbeat grew louder every day, and few freelance Western photographers remained in Iraq. But Nosh believed she could provide a unique perspective. Raised in Canada by Iraqi parents, she could work without a translator, helping to put her subjects at ease.
The intimacy she established shows in her photographs, which have appeared in prestigious publications including The Guardian, the Times of London, the Toronto Star, and Jane magazine. In a July multimedia photo essay for the New York Times’s online Week in Review section, the 32-year-old provided a gripping first-person account of her experience photographing Iraqi civilians who’d lost limbs in violence following the American occupation. In late July she traveled to Syria to photograph a secret Islamic women’s society, staying to cover the influx of people fleeing the fighting between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon.
American Photo: You have worked in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. What draws you to these places?
Farah Nosh: Iraq is an emotional investment, since my roots are Iraqi. The latest work there was my attempt to humanize Iraqis. I feel that perspective has been lacking, keeping much of the world disconnected from the experience there. The Western world is only deepening the rift with the Arab world.
AP: What was it like covering Iraq under Saddam Hussein?
FN: Those were the good old days. I don’t think that many of us who worked there then would have ever thought we would say that. Hussein’s regime was a time in history, and I love that I experienced it firsthand.
AP:How did your New York Times amputee piece develop?
FN: The amputee work is what inspired me to go to Iraq. The fire under me was seeing images of wounded American vets in VA hospitals. I became despondent that the Iraqi side was not being illustrated. I took the work to Jeffrey Scales at the Week in Review section. He said he wanted it before he had even finished looking at the prints.