Snap Snap Snap: A Look Into the Mind of a Military Photojournalist

What’s it like to shoot on the front lines of battle as a military photojournalist? This 15-minute documentary by filmmaker Hannah Hill will tell you. Here’s the video’s description:

This is a documentary about Staff Sgt. Ryan Crane, a United States Air Force photojournalist, who has deployed to Afghanistan twice. He shares his experiences as a photojournalist in a combat environment as well as the mental and physical toll it takes on him.

Crane is based out of O’Fallon, Illinois, and has served as a combat cameraman for a Special Forces, photographing the war with a DSLR and an M4.

He started his journey in photography in high school, and enlisted in the Air Force as a photographer back in 2006. Over the course of his career so far, he has won a number of awards for his combat photography. After his military career, he plans to bring his skills into the civilian world and work as a traditional photojournalist.

One of the powerful things Crane describes in the video is something most photographers don’t have to deal with when heading out for an assignment: writing letters to your loved ones in case you don’t make it home. Crane said that the hardest thing was having to sit down at a computer and write out a letter to his young daughter as if he had died (while “bawling his eyes out”).

Here’s a selection of Crane’s fantastic photographs.

You can find more of Crane’s work on his website here.

(via Reddit)

Image credits: Photographs by Ryan Crane/US Air Force

  • Sebi

    I assume he us using a 5D mk2 since that’s standard issue. So these are very nteresting aspect ratios.

  • Niccyboy

    It all looks Nikon to me.

  • Anne Marie Laney

    in the video he’s holding a nikon d3

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Great shots… Stupid war.

  • whocares

    Nikon is standard issue. Journalist? Hard to be a journalist when you’re directly involved in the conflict.

  • Johnathan

    Hmm.. I think the distinction needs to be made here between a photoJOURNALIST and a official U.S. army photographer/propagandist. Mr. Crane is certainly not the former.

  • miki

    I doesn’t seems like he is a real conflict photographer like the ones from the VII agency. And he is jung, let’s hope he survives all the battles!

  • DafOwen

    Nikon is standard issue in British army now

  • DafOwen

    Nice images. Guy comes over as a nice guy too.
    Wonder why an airforce photographer is covering such topics.

  • Jasper Verolme

    Us Photographers are issued with Nikon. Brits as well iirc.

    There is an endless discusion between the terms photojournalist, Propaganda photographer etc etc . Only Propaganda sounds like a curse.. But you are bringing one side of the story.. so Photojournalist isn’t the ride word either. For me and my colleagues we like to call it company photography. :)

  • tyrohne

    outstanding photos. The guys embedded in the white house while they are paid by a ‘news’ agency don’t strike me as any less propagandizing (they are capturing what they are directed to capture by and large, regardless of the party in office) and we typically only see emotionally evoking images that present a crafted view of the person in office or the guys on the battlefield. Think of how many “Behind the scenes with the guy who SHOOTS THE PRESIDENT’s PHOTOS” we have seen. There’s zero pathos there. It’s like (as with these) Leni Riefenstahl is still alive.

  • ryan

    wonderful and powerful images! well done, thank you for your service!

  • Brent

    Army uses Nikon only, if you see someone using anything else it’s their own personal equipment.

  • Matthew

    He said he’s embedded with Special Forces. You’ll see Air Force chevrons on several of the uniforms in those photos; the Air Force has several Special Operations units–TAC P, Pararescue, Combat Control, etc. All of them are badass and just as good as special operators in other services (except for the SEALS. Even this former USAF member must give the crowing glory to the SEALS.)

  • derekdj

    Why does there need to be a distinction made here?

    Should we call all embedded journalists propagandists? After all they have to follow rules of reporting set by the military. Is a military photographer any less of a documentarian than someone from Rolling Stone or Washington Post? Is Matt Tabibi a journalist or a propagandist?

    The United States military have had active duty soldiers serve as “journalists” since WWI. Perhaps you should read the biographies of many “journalists” like Amanpour or Ware who have from time to time participated in events, are they any less of a journalist?

  • Jun-Kai Teoh

    I agree with you that Crane may not be a traditional photojournalist, and his photos may show a slightly skewed side of the army, but I feel it is still a meaningful narrative and one that needs to be told.

  • Jun-Kai Teoh

    I think the fear is that a military photographer may have their photos screened by the military organization prior to release – and the military organization has a “conflict of interest” when it comes to documenting the conflict.

    Whereas a photographer from a separate organization, while still very likely to be biased, answers to the organization and may have less interest in portraying the conflict a certain manner. And journalists embedded with the military organization have restrictions, but less than military photographers.

    Your point is legitimate, and so is Johnathan’s, both are things that are worth reviewing frequently.

  • derekdj

    I agree, the question of what constitutes journalism today is a tricky one, especially with citizen reporters, MSNBC and Fox. But, the use of propagandists is a loaded term that should be used delicately. Crane as a documentarian is not a propagandist, those who use his photographs to promote a view point are the propagandists.

  • Mansgame

    Yeah I think they’re using the term “Journalist” a bit too loosely.

  • Mansgame

    Also a D700

  • Mansgame

    I’ve never been a fan of animating still pictures. Either have video or a picture. Sheesh. Great pics though.

  • Zach D Roberts

    I see what you’re saying but his work is potentially used for military newspapers and news sites so… I guess it’s technicality…

  • Daniel Goodale-Porter

    War is just God’s way to make Americans learn geography.

  • Michael H.

    Awesome Documentary, So Inspiring.

    I have a question about a technique… how did hannah get the picture to move. for example if there was a soldier standing with a wall behind him, he is still but the camera is moving and the background is reflecting that movement.

    I believe this is called motion capture but how was this done. Especially if these shots were already taken…

    (something that might give clue to this is that in one of the examples there was rocket fire in the background so it might be a video layered with an image. either way, pls explain. thanks!)