• Watch the "Life in Baghdad" series online
The idea for a series on ordinary Iraqis came when a New Yorker asked me what I ate for breakfast in Baghdad. I said smoothies: yogurt and fruit in a blender. The New Yorker was surprised that you could get a blender in Iraq. This made me think that the perception of life in Iraq by Americans was distorted. I decided to show that in addition to a few thousand gunmen, there were 24 million other people — factory workers, school teachers, brides, teeny-boppers — all trying to lead their lives under challenging circumstances. I thought the pictures of ordinary Iraqis getting married, getting ready for work, eating dinner, spending time with their families, would be interesting to Americans.
While doing the series, a couple of pictures stand out for me. The curling iron in the beauty shop that was actually under a flame, the bride hidden by a veil blown by a tiny fan, and the father who was playing a game of "Where's Saddam" with his five-year-old son who answered, "In a rat hole."
But when it came to what Iraqis thought about Americans, even I was surprised. Despite real concerns and frustration about security and shortages, there seemed to be a real conviction that the coaltion forces were absolutely necessary. I was surprised to hear the teenage girl say she waved to the helicopters and called out greetings. You can tell when you see her on tape she is excited and sincere.
Back in the U.S. I was surprised again. When Americans ask me about Iraq, the questions are always: "Do they all want to kill us?" and "Do they all hate us?"
There is a gap between what the Iraqis I had the chance to spend time with were thinking, and how most Americans thought they were thinking. The series "Life in Baghdad" is an attempt to bridge that gap.