An Iraqi mother comforting her son while a hand wipes tears from his face. Children at their desks drawing crayon pictures of American fighter planes. A young Iraqi girl, eyes closed with her face tilted to the sun, sailing through the air on a carnival swing.
These images were among the 90 shown by Portland photojournalist Joel Preston Smith for "Living with the Enemy: Portraits of Daily Life in Iraq," a discussion held at the Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center last Wednesday night.
Smith pushed the sold-out audience to consider how fear is promoted in America, and how Muslims have become "the chosen enemy" since the Cold War's end. Smith attempts to counter these trends with his art and humanitarian work. "I want to encourage you to be respectful, to be compassionate, so that we can live in a more peaceful world," he told the crowd.
Americans are "habituated to images of pity," Smith said, and presented with "images that show distance." Rather than inspiring sympathy with his photos, Smith tries to arouse identification. "It isn't until we say, 'You are our family,'" he said, "that we can even think about stopping the war."