Clinton native Edward Faircloth is one of those people who believes that a photo is worth a thousand words. After recently completing a 23-month deployment to Afghanistan, Faircloth has published a digital book of photos that he took during his time there, hoping that through his photos people may receive a new message about Afghanistan and come to see the county and its people in a new light.
It all began in 2010 when Faircloth, with years of radio and television experience under his belt, joined the U.S. government to serve as the communications senior adviser for the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan where he worked with the Afghan National Army’s communications department and its public affairs directorate.
“My mission centered on helping the Afghan National Army’s public affairs office better communicate with the Afghan population and the news media,” explained Faircloth. “It was critical that the Afghan people believed in the ability of the army to protect them.”
Although he claims he is not a serious photographer, Faircloth said he “probably took around 2,000 photos” of Afghanistan and the Afghan people while he was deployed.
“In Afghanistan, there are so many things to take pictures of. It’s really an incredible world, a very exotic place,” recalled Faircloth. “When I got there, the conflict had been going on for about eight years already and it all seemed so important to me. From the start, it was a significant place to me and made me feel like it was worth taking pictures of.”
Initially, Faircloth shared his photos only through Facebook, along with updates on his activities and well being.
“I never really thought about putting my photos into a book, but I kept having a lot of people on Facebook tell me how wonderful my photos were and that I should make a book. After a while, it sunk in that maybe I should do that,” said Faircloth.
According to Faircloth, he had the perfect opportunity to work on a book. “In Afghanistan, there is not a lot to do. I was on a military base and everyone works from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. After 7 p.m. there is not much to do other than exercise or read or, in my case, make a book.”
“I used on Apple product called iBooks Author that allows you to create a digital book for iPads,” continued Faircloth. “It’s quite impressive.”
Although he admitted that it was hard to choose which of his many photos would be included, Faircloth said he loved the experience of creating the book. “I probably spent around 200 hours working on it. I finally whittled the number of photos down to about 350. Overall, it was an enjoyable process. I kind of took on a life of its own.”
Because he created a digital book, Faircloth had the opportunity to share not only photos but also a unique audio recording with his audience.
On April 15, 2012, Faircloth was at his apartment, which was located adjacent to the U.S. embassy in Afghanistan, when the embassy came under an insurgent attack.
“I heard all these loud booms and bangs. I grabbed my iPad and stuck it in a window that was slightly open and recorded the attack. It was quite interesting. It was the real sounds of war,” shared Faircloth. “What I have done is taken that recording and put some pictures of the attack and the aftermath with it and made it into a little slideshow.”
When Faircloth finished his book, which he titled “Afghanistan: Birth of an Army,” he dedicated it to Brigadier General Dawlat Waziri, the spokesman for the Afghan National Army and a man Faircloth worked closely with on a daily basis and had much respect for.
“He is a wonderful man who kind of looks like Santa Claus,” Faircloth described. “He loves Afghanistan so much and is heartbroken at the tragedy there but still remains positive. He is on television most everyday and really puts his life on the line for Afghanistan.”
As he recalled Waziri and reflected on his time in Afghanistan, Faircloth shared that his deployment there became a deeply personal experience.
“I am just a boy from Clinton, North Carolina. I joined the Army right after I graduated from Clinton High School in 1969 and was sent to Vietnam. That was not a positive experience. Even returning to the U.S. after Vietnam was not a positive experience for me,” remembered Faircloth. “When I was in Afghanistan some 40 years later, it took me back to Vietnam. I was back in Asia and back in a war zone. But it was different. It kind of book-ended my Vietnam experience, giving me a sense of closure so that I can put an end to Vietnam. I am sure on my deathbed that I will tell people that Afghanistan was the most wonderful time of my life.”
Although his audience will probably never have the kind of connection that he has to Afghanistan, Faircloth hopes that the photos featured in his book will still have an strong effect.
“Through my book, I hope people have a more realistic view of Afghanistan because the photos are of real people and real sights there; it’s what it really looks like. I hope people have a clearer idea of what the U.S and the coalition’s involvement in Afghanistan looks like,” stressed Faircloth. “I want them to see my truth through the photos and through the statements I make about the Afghan people.”
“They are so warm and kind and friendly,” continued Faircloth about the people he grew so fond of. “We think of Afghanistan as a place of war and killing and it is that in some ways, but despite decades of conflict and invaders, the people are some of the nicest people I have ever met in my life. Everywhere I went they were always wanting to give me something like tea or bread. They are a lot like the nice people of Clinton, North Carolina.”
Faircloth is the son of 92-year-old Margaret Faircloth of Clinton and the late J.B. Faircloth Jr.
“Afghanistan: Birth of an Army” can only be viewed on an iPad and is available for purchase through Apple’s iBook service.
For more information about Faircloth and his book, please visit www.armyafghanistan.com.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.