Joel Preston Smith has seen war from many views and in many parts of the world. He was first a soldier, then a Conscientious Objector.
He is now a photographer, journalist, and author. As a journalist, Joel has made several trips to some of the most troubled areas on the planet, meeting people and recording their lives through his sensitive and touching photographs.
Joel is an articulate commentator about being a soldier trapped in an impossible situation like the current war. He’s seen firsthand the destruction that war has brought to the Iraqi people. Learn more about Joel’s new book, Night of a Thousand Stars and Other Portraits from Iraq from Nazraeli Press, and visit his website.
The photo here shows Joel with Hiba and Daour Mathoub (12-year-old Iraqi twins) at their family’s apartment in east Baghdad. The photo is by their sister, Fatima Mathoub. Joel has been unable to contact this family since he last left Iraq.
"I got a lot of support [becoming a CO as a soldier]. I only had one negative experience directly from any soldier in the time I was in the military from a fellow who had been arrested a few times for domestic violence on Post. He was kind of a hard drinking kind of guy who wanted to know if he took me outside and beat the shit out me would I still be a Conscientious Objector, and I said 'yes.' He couldn't think of anything else to say and I walked away and that was the end of that. A lot of soldiers came to me in private and said that we know you really well and I always tried to do my job very well. I wasn't somebody they saw as a Leftist. I wasn't trying to undermine the country. I was respectful to my superiors.... So I found there were a lot of people who had similar beliefs but most of them were afraid of being seen as cowards, as evading a duty."
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