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A Famous Photo, Explained By the Old Friend Who Took It

Getty Images photographer John Moore

Those of us who worked with John Moore at The Daily Texan in the late 1980s knew he'd be successful for two very important reasons: He's an astoundingly talented picture-taker, and he's awfully handsome; guy just looks like one of them mythic flak-jacketed war-zone photographers you see on the teevee. Couple of years back, the Irving-bred University of Texas grad was among a team of 11 photographers sharing a Pulitzer Prize for their work covering the war in Iraq. That's where he's been most of the last several years -- either in Iraq or Afghanistan. Can't be easy on his wife Gretchen, who's nearly nine months pregnant, or their 2-year-old daughter.

John works for Getty Images now, and a few days back a heartwrenching photo of his appeared on the cover of The New York Times -- one in which a woman's laying atop her fiance's grave in Arlington National Cemetery, whispering to the headstone. Her name is Mary McHugh; his was Jimmy Regan. He was an Army Ranger killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq four months ago.

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As John explains in this terrific essay that appeared a few days ago on the Getty blog, along with the picture, many who saw the photo felt he'd intruded upon Mary and Jimmy's privacy; they though the photo "too intimate, too personal." So he felt it necessary to explain why he took it and what it mean to him and why he had no choice but to take the picture and share it:

Like many who have seen the picture, I felt overwhelmed by her grief, and moved by the love she felt for her fallen sweetheart.

After so much time covering these wars, I have some difficult memories and have seen some of the worst a person can see -- so much hatred and rage, so much despair and sadness. All that destruction, so much killing. And now, one beautiful and terribly sad spring afternoon amongst the rows and rows of marble stones -- a young woman’s lost love.

It's a hell of a picture taken by a hell of a photographer and a hell of a man. --Robert Wilonsky

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