Updated 12:44 AM EDT, Sun March 19, 2023
By Christina Zdanowicz, Mohammed Tawfeeq, Will Lanzoni and Brett Roegiers, CNN
A shopkeeper squeezes fresh orange juice. A man sits while his cat sunbathes on a motorcycle. Two girls play with their new umbrellas.
These street scenes paint a picture of how life has changed in Iraq in the 20 years since the United States invaded the country in 2003.
A year after the start of the Iraq War, Michael Itkoff — an American studying photography at the time — had an idea. He sent 20 disposable cameras to a photojournalist working in Iraq and asked for the cameras to be distributed to citizens.
He wanted to capture what life looked like through the eyes of Iraqis. The prompt was simple: Show the American public what you want them to see.
“We were seeking to counter some of the mass media depictions of the conflict that were painting with a broad brush this idea of the insurgency where every Iraqi could be the enemy,” said Itkoff, who published the photos in Daylight, a visual storytelling platform and book publisher he co-founded.
This year he repeated the disposable camera experiment. And this time, the images show a return to normalcy despite the presence of old wounds.
“While the scenes of everyday life signal life has changed and come back to a more peaceful existence in the photos from Baghdad, some of the images from Falluja and Mosul paint a picture of visible scars and cities left in disrepair,” he said.
CNN spoke with several of the Iraqis who took this year’s photographs. Many of them expressed wanting to show their country in a new light.
“I want the world to have a different image of Iraq, rather than seeing scenes of destruction and killing,” said Tariq Raheem, 50. “I want to send a message to the world that Iraqi people love peace and want to live in peace.”