Are These Soldiers Asked to Pose for Pictures?

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Looking at the three pictures of Marines in the side bar of this article (like this one), these soldiers seem crammed very close to each other for a position taken in broad daylight nearby a road. Keeping proper distances between foot soldiers is key to their security (you still want to be able to communicate within your unit of course, and not lose track of where your people are). The bottom picture looks especially artificial. I had similar concerns about some pictures from the Afghan operations. I’m going to ask Getty Images.

Update: thanks to Kerry McCarthy from Getty Images who got back to me quickly:

“We never ask subjects to pose for pictures on breaking news stories such as this, “for visual reasons” or any other. We do not set shots up. What you see in Joe’s images are as they happened. I can not comment as to the lack of space between each soldier, even though what you say here makes sense.”

Well, I wasn’t there, so I can’t question Getty Images and Joe Raedle’s integrity from my armchair. I’m a reserve officer (insert obligatory joke about the state of the French army, still what I’m talking about is pretty much a basic) and one thing in my training was clear: you don’t let your soldiers pack up close to each other if the visibility and terrain allow you to allocate proper intervals between them. Maybe the soldiers on this picture took it to themselves to regroup, maybe it’s an effect of perspective and distance (they really seem very close to each other though), or maybe at that time they were far from the enemy and didn’t really care (but then their ammo is loaded, which you usually don’t do at a picnic.) Here’s something about US infantry doctrine, it doesn’t detail proper formations, movement techniques or deployment guidelines though.

05/08/03 update: reader Michael Nosal wrote me this, with convincing examples to support his argument:

“I’m certain this is the result of the photographer using a long telephoto lens. Long focal-length lenses give the impression of compressed perspective – items look closer together than they really are.”

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