Author/photographer Gerszak first went to Afghanistan to spend a year embedded with an American military unit documenting house searches, disputes with village elders and the aftermath of battles. He returned as an unaffiliated photographer without a military escort, determined to document civilian life.
This "photo journal" features images from both trips to Afghanistan, accompanied by diarylike accounts of his travels. Gerszak's frank and descriptive observations effectively convey the ugliness, monotony and tragedy of war. Most compelling are descriptions of civilians he meets, encounters that put a human face on the conflict Gerszak was unable to experience as an embedded journalist. His powerful images never romanticize or sensationalize the war. There are scenes of bloody battles, wounded people in hospitals and dazed refugees, but also remarkable images of busy marketplaces and vibrant street activity revealing that life goes on in the midst of death and destruction. The snippets of Gerszak's observations often lack cohesion and context. Though good background information is provided throughout in sidebars on such subjects as the Taliban, Muslim traditions and ethnic groups, this book alone will not give readers insight into the complexities of the Afghan conflict.
As one journalist's perspective, this stands as an excellent supplement to a more comprehensive overview. (maps, photographs) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)