How I Got the Photo – Edouard Plante-Fréchette
2016 NPOY FEATURE, Finalist – An Iraqi soldier prays on November 18, 2016, while nearby combat is still raging on the eastern front of the battle against the Islamic State in the district of Kirkukly in Mosul, Iraq. The Islamic State took control of the city of Mosul in June, 2014, defeating an unprepared Iraqi Army. Efforts to reclaim the city started in October 2016. (Edouard Plante-Frechette / La Presse)
This image was taken on the eastern front line of the war opposing the Iraqi Army and the Islamic State in Mosul. A soldier pauses, puts down his riffle and removes his sweater to use it as a rug for one of his daily prayers to Allah.
An old man, living next door, observed the scene and approached discreetly to realign the soldier’s jacket with the mecca. Two mortar shells had just landed some 300 meters away, and a constant flow of civilians holding white flags were arriving at the Iraqi Army position. The fog of war had engulfed the streets of Mosul, the last stronghold of the Islamic State in Iraq.
When I saw this scene I felt there was something strong about it, almost iconic. In a moving blend of faith, war and peace, it highlighted the deeply religious nature of this strange, geopolitical war.
I shot different angles of this scene and took the time to observe the gesture of the soldier and his surroundings. I first used a 35mm lens, where I could see his face and part of the big black Humvee on his right side. It was a good image but simple.
Then I saw the shadow cast by his hands around his head and decided to move back and switch to my 50mm. By framing without the head, and at a slightly tighter angle, I knew the different elements would be emphasized, creating a stronger, more graphic image. There was no need to keep shooting. I just waited for the man to finish his prayer so I could thank him for the image.