A peshmerga soldier searches for his bulletproof vest and combat helmet as troops gather in a village outside of Mosul in Iraq. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

The immediacy of war is often missing in daily reports and statistics. What about the gnawing hunger from infrequent meals? The sting of dust from unpaved roads? The constant fatigue? The fear of death? These are the details of war Ricardo Garcia Vilanova renders so clearly in his photographs, each story a kaleidoscope of mundanity and swift military action. Originally from Spain, Garcia Vilanova has worked in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, where he was kidnapped and held hostage for six months in 2014. Using Facebook, he keeps in touch with military personnel he has met along the way, joining up with them when their lives become chaotic. His pictures show the emotions of war as he places himself in the midst of a gun fight or inside a trench for an all-night vigil. He helps us to experience war as a soldier would.

In May, Garcia Vilanova caught up with Kurdish peshmerga forces who were pushing through villages in Iraq toward the northeast of Mosul, the city considered the main headquarters of the Islamic State at the moment. The nine villages recaptured by Kurdish forces in the Khazir area from the Islamic State may be properties of contention in the future. The Kurdish Regional Government deems them part of ancient Kurdish territory. Presently the villages sit inside the borders of Iraq.

Peshmerga soldiers remain alert for the sound of Islamic State soldiers as they rest in a trench on the front line in the Khazir area of Iraq. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)


A Kurdish peshmerga soldier holds Islamic State propaganda that he found in one of the houses formerly occupied by the militant group. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Kurdish peshmerga soldiers open fire on Islamic State positions in an effort to seize one of the villages in the Khazir area deemed to belong to the Shabak and Qashpai religious minorities. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Tel Skuf is a Christian village northwest of Mosul in Iraq. The Islamic State attacked this village in May, killing U.S. Navy Seal Charles Keating IV. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Refugees fleeing the city of Mosul were rescued by Kurdish peshmerga soldiers in Kubeiba and subsequently moved to a refugee camp in Iraq. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Through a telescopic sight on a rifle, a Kurdish peshmerga soldier monitors the positions of Islamic State soldiers. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Kurdish peshmerga soldiers stay up all night, drinking tea and coffee to fight fatigue, as they remain alert in a trench on the front line for a possible attack from Islamic State forces. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Kurdish peshmerga soldiers open fire on positions held by the Islamic State in the Khazir area northeast of Mosul, Iraq. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

Kurdish peshmerga soldiers receive rations — usually rice or pasta with some vegetables or chicken — on the front line. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

When the fighting stops, Kurdish peshmerga soldiers talk together as the sun rises on the front line, northeast of Mosul. (Ricardo Garcia Vilanova)

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