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Interview With Lewis Korman, Ron Haviv

Aired May 16, 2003 - 09:47   ET


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: On October 22nd, 125 of the world's top photographers spent the next 24 hours snapping anything that moved in a military uniform. Talking about pictures. Their mission: to document the everyday life of American servicemen and women. Of the 250,000 pictures that were taken, just 300 ended up in a fascinating new book called "A Day in the Life of the U.S. Armed Forces."
A preview of the book brought out two of the Pentagon's top guns: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and CENTCOM commander Tommy Franks, and joining us now to talk about the book and show us some of these incredible pictures, photographer Ron Haviv and one of the project creators, Lewis Korman. Good to see both of you.



WHITFIELD: What was the inspiration, or at least the objective? You had a 24-hour period in which to take all the images, but it was pre-war activity. Ron, what were some of the things that were -- specifically you were looking for?

HAVIV: Well, I thought it was interesting to go and see what the daily life of the American military was, what they went through, their everyday activities, whether it was incredibly mundane or something exotic, like being in the desert in Kuwait, and I think that was something that this book really shows the American people, what happens when they aren't fighting. The life behind, when the war is not there.

WHITFIELD: Some of the indelible images for you?

HAVIV: Something as simple as shaving in the middle of the desert. Something as sort of mundane as that, but something that was quite complicated, bringing water, having them have to be able to have food, the different lines, the sort of the building of the camps in Kuwait while they are preparing to go to war in Iraq.

WHITFIELD: And Lewis, this project really hit home for you, particularly because your son-in-law died in the World Trade Center bombings. How were you able to kind of make the connection, or this became a very personal project for you, didn't it?

KORMAN: It did. For me, the book, I wanted it to be a remembrance of my son -- his name was Blake Wallens, and all the other people who perished on 9/11, and I also wanted the book to honor the men and women of the United States armed forces, and I thought by doing so, it could have a positive impact on our country.

WHITFIELD: You know, Lewis, it is one thing -- you have a vision of what your going -- what your images are that you're going after. It is another thing when you're in the situation, and you are right there and you see the stuff as it unfolds. How close were your -- I guess what your ambitions of the pictures you were looking for to the reality of what was right in front of you?

KORMAN: The reality, ironically, far exceeded the ambitions. The images that came back and the information we had was just tremendous. Around the world, 125 locations. We saw people's family lives, we saw them working, we saw them coping with the unknown. What's going to happen in the world next?

WHITFIELD: Some of those very simple things, such as the haircut there -- we're looking at the pictures and look at these last moments of a father and his son. This became very personal for you as well, didn't it? I mean, you were embedded with one of the groups, and so did you feel like you had a -- had kind of a personal relationship developed with some of these folks?

HAVIV: I think absolutely. When you spend time with anybody, you develop a bond, but especially when the military in these extreme circumstances that you see in the book, there is the life that they were leading, and you're there with them and in this 24-hour period, you immediately bond, and it was a really good sort of basis for my relationship that I found later when I was embedded during the war.

WHITFIELD: And at the same time, as you get to know some of these folks and know the relationships that they have with their families back at home, how did you try to portray that in some of your images?

HAVIV: Well, I think it's just important for people to realize that the American military, the soldiers and men and women are just like us. They have their families and it is very difficult for them, obviously, to leave and go off to war and the joy when they come back and they are reunited with their families, and I hope that in this book, you really get a sense of what these people go through, their daily lives, how important it is, and one of the things that amazed me the most was that when talking to the soldiers about what they were going to do when they go home, I thought, obviously, they are going to go on vacation, they are going to do something like that, but the soldiers, when they get back from Iraq, they're going straight back to work, and they are going back to doing these jobs that are illustrated in this book. I mean, their life -- it's their life all the time.

WHITFIELD: Lewis, it was tremendous to capture these images and even more tremendous, sometimes still, is editing them. You had to whittle it down to just 300 images. How did you do that?

KORMAN: Well, we had a team, a great team of photo editors from leading newspapers and magazines around the country, and on a daily basis, they would whittle it down, and at night, we would have what we call a bake off where the whole production team got together and voted on what images would make it to the next day. And after ten days, we were left with a thousand, and from that thousand, we cut that to 300.

WHITFIELD: A huge challenge. Lewis Korman and Ron Haviv. The book is "A Day in the Life of the United States Armed Forces." The book came out last Tuesday. It is on the book stands now. Congratulations, and good luck on the project.

KORMAN: Thank you so much for having us.


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