I went to Iraq at 23 with this intention, believing my photographic witness and intellectual fortitude would be an important representation of my generation, who I thought would be profoundly impacted by this war. Of course, my original, naïve plans did not survive first contact with the enemy. Witnessing the Iraq War did not affect its outcome, nor sway its architects toward greater wisdom or compassion. Less than one percent of my generation got involved at all. My coming of age was largely a process of weaponizing my instincts and reflexes.
And, finally, embedded researchers accumulate knowledge that makes them more valuable to their collaborators over time. When related questions emerge or the roadmap shifts, we can make recommendations based on what we already know. Research reports can be beautifully written and organized, but the most flexible knowledge is in people’s heads.