Hundreds of U.S. Marines gather at Camp Commando in the Kuwait desert during a Christmas Eve visit by Santa Claus. Thousands of U.S. troops had been moved to Kuwait prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Anja Niedringhaus is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press photographer who has spent much of her career in conflict zones. She has worked on the front lines from the Balkans in the ’90s to the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. "At War," an exhibit featuring 40 of her photographs, opens Saturday in Berlin and chronicles 10 years of conflict from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. to the present.
“In her remarkable photographs, Anja Niedringhaus takes us on an unforgettable visual journey to some of the more hostile and unforgiving locations of recent years,” Santiago Lyon, AP's director of photography, writes in the introduction to a catalog accompanying the exhibit. “In these days of mass media, instant Internet gratification, and image saturation, it is a refreshing privilege to have the opportunity to pause in front of these prints and absorb the images at our own leisure.”
Her photographs will be on display through Dec. 4 at C/O Berlin – International Forum For Visual Dialogues.
Anja Niedringhaus / AP
The head of a child's doll is mounted on a stick next to a checkpoint leading into the heavily guarded town of Fallujah, Iraq, on Feb. 6, 2005.
Niedringhaus answered Overhead Bin's questions about life on the front lines:
Q. What attracts you to working in a place that many people would just as soon avoid?
A. I'm a photojournalist and for me covering conflict and war represents the essence of journalism, which is to document history. Conflict and war decide history. It defines journalism for me. We are just the messenger with a camera. I'm fortunate not to live in a war zone but in my profession I need to show what is going on in the world. That's why I'm doing it. Since I got my first job as a photographer more than 20 years ago, there has not been a single year without a conflict.
Q. The photo of Santa Claus surrounded by soldiers is striking. What was going through your mind when you made that photograph?
A. I had spent a couple of weeks on the Kuwaiti-Iraq border covering the U.S. troop buildup ahead of the second Iraq war. The picture was taken on Christmas Eve. I had been invited to cover Christmas celebrations with the U.S Marines. They lived at a dusty old base used before by the Kuwait army. Suddenly the unit gathered in a circle and waited for the celebrations to start. I spotted a rusty tower next to the gathering. It was about 10 meters high and I climbed up. I had just reached the top when I saw Santa Claus arrive and stop in the middle of the group of soldiers. It was for me a totally unreal scene.
Q. What experience of working in a combat zone sticks out most in your mind?
A. There are so many things that stay with me and each time I learn more. You need to be open to people because you are the stranger, not them. You need to stay a human being. You need to make friends and find people you can trust because without a good driver or a good fixer you are not going anywhere. Those people should get half of the credit for each photo I have taken over the years because without those people I could never do my job.
Q. Any plans to bring the “At War” exhibit to the U.S.?
A. There are no immediate plans to bring the exhibit to the U.S. It has been a lot of work just to show a small part of my work in Berlin. At the same time as the Berlin exhibition, a book of my photographs — by the same title “At War” — will also be coming out. It will feature about 80 photographs taken over the last 10 years. The exhibition will be shown as well next January in Frankfurt, Germany. After that, I don’t know. To bring “At War” to the U.S. would be amazing.
Q. Where do you call home when you’re not traveling the world?
A. Home for me is Germany, where I live with my family when I'm back from assignments, and my second home is Geneva, Switzerland, where I'm based for The Associated Press.
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Joy Jernigan is a senior travel editor for msnbc.com. Follow her on Twitter.