Moises Saman

1974, born in Lima, Peru
Nominee - Prix Elysée 2021

Moises Saman was born in Lima, Peru, from a mixed Spanish and Peruvian family. At the age of one, his family relocated to Barcelona, Spain, where Moises spent most of his youth. Saman studied Communications and Sociology in the United States at California State University, graduating in 1998. It was during his last year in university that Saman first became interested in becoming a photographer, influenced by the work of a number of photojournalists that had been covering the wars in the Balkans.



Iraq has defined Moises Saman’s career as a photojournalist. He began working there just before the 2003 US invasion as a newspaper photographer, and has continued to work across the country almost every year since. His work has covered the US occupation and withdrawal, displacement, ethnic cleansing and other human rights and humanitarian crises, governance issues, the rise and fall of ISIS, and more. However, his intention with this project is not to present a journalistic or historical account of post-Saddam Iraq.

Rather, he wants to present a more conceptual account, one that captures the cacophony of voices that have shaped the narrative of what is arguably the defining war of our generation. He plans to pair his photographs with key sourced texts about the Iraq war – notable quotes from political, military and other powerful figures; memorable passages; official transcripts; military lingo; pop culture references; etc. Texts and photographs will be decontextualized and paired in ways that reveal new layers to the discussion.

Who has the power to shape the narrative of a war, and how do they wield that power? Who is a local voice, and who is a global voice? How do multiple narratives compete and combine with one another? What truths get buried in the clamor?

His photographs are not meant to represent an objective account of the Iraq war against which to compare the textual references. Rather, the book grapples with Moises Saman’s own role and power as a narrator – particularly one with access to foreign publications – and the biases and limitations inevitably embedded in his work.

*re title: Sourced from the thousands of code names used by the US military to identify military operations in Iraq from 2003-2010. Operation Glad Tidings of Benevolence was an Iraq operation carried out in 2009, it consisted of clearing areas in search of weapons caches, checking identification for known criminals and bringing humanitarian assistance to local communities.