Are you worried people will expect [Sweet 75] to be great because you were in Nirvana?
We are good! I’m excited. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t even be in the band. I don’t have any problems about how to promote it, either. I don’t have a celebrity identity crisis. I am who I am, and if people come to see the band because it’s the ex-Nirvana guy, that’s great. That’s an advantage that I’ll take, because I think people should really hear the band.
Happy 48th birthday Krist Novoselic! Read our 1996 interview with Novoselic where he talks about activism and life after Nirvana.
Feliz cumple a Krist! :D
Thus far, photographer Peter van Agtmael’s career has primarily focused on documenting the effects of America’s post 9/11 wars both at home and abroad. Before traveling to Iraq in 2006, however, he covered certain issues surrounding HIV-positive refugees in South Africa, and the Asian tsunami in 2005. After starting work in Iraq, he went on to win numerous awards, work in Afghanistan—both embedded and unembedded—and documented injured servicemen and their families. Oh, and he also shot the photo in the table of contents for this month’s issue of our magazine. We spoke to him about the mysterious attraction of conflict, and the realities of censorship and care for a country’s wounded.
VICE: You graduated in history with honors from Yale. What specifically did you study?
Peter van Agtmael: I studied a pretty general curriculum, that being the expectation. By the time I wrote my thesis, I had decided to write it on how the iconography of WWII Yugoslavia, of opposing forces like the Chetniks and Ustaše, was renewed in the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. How it was used to stoke fear and exploited by the power brokers to wage a civil war.
Do you think that your education led to you working as a photographer in a warzone at the age of 24?
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Those suburbs are like suburbs anywhere. It’s easy to want to dream about more exciting places. When I was a kid, I was always very into pictorial history books—especially ones about WWII. I found it all very exciting and romantic, in its own way.
Obviously, you get older and the reality of these things kicks in, but the romance doesn’t go away, even when you get caught in the midst of it; that’s the strange and scary thing. I have had depraved and scary experiences in the last decade, but I’ve had beautiful ones, too. The fact is that when you get caught in the middle of these things, in these places there’s an indescribable merit somehow to feeling involved, to be making a record for history, it is satisfying a certain natural curiosity—one with certain useful impulses, and certain dark impulses as well.
Do you think that built-in fascination with conflict applies to most soldiers, too?
I think it’s across the board. If you have read Michael Herr’s Dispatches, he puts it really well—though it may be a dated reference in some ways. He essentially said that you can’t take the romance out of war. It’s sort of innate. It’s a genetically hardwired part of the experience. We all objectively realize the awfulness and brutality of it, but also for a lot of young people —especially men—there is this draw to it, not at all based on logic or rational thought. There are a million ways to try to intellectualize it, rationalize it, and break it into its tiny component pieces, but at the end of the day there’s a pull that can’t really be described or explained away. At least not for me. I envy people who aren’t drawn to war in a lot of ways. I’ve had a good and interesting life so far, but at times I wish I had made different choices.
Avengers #13 by Chris Bachalo