Iconic Decline

Miller's picture is not on this week's RS cover — that honor goes to Chris Rock — but Miller is the subject of one of the main feature stories: The story recounts the sad journey that Miller's life has taken since his face became famous in an iconic photograph (above) — a shot of Miller in Falluja, Iraq, made in 2004 by imbedded photographer Luis Sinco for the Los Angeles Times.

Photo © Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times

As an amateur guitarist and rock-and-roll fan, James Blake Miller may well marvel that he's made "the cover of the Rolling Stone." But he's probably not thrilled about the context.

Miller's picture is not on this week's RS cover — that honor goes to Chris Rock — but Miller is the subject of one of the main feature stories: "Home From War: Tragedy of the Marlboro Marine." The story recounts the sad journey that Miller's life has taken since his face became famous in an iconic photograph (above) — a shot of Miller in Falluja, Iraq, made in 2004 by imbedded photographer Luis Sinco for the Los Angeles Times.

The picture — which seemed to capture at once the steely resolve, grimy entanglement, and weary disillusionment of U.S. soldiers in Iraq — became widely known and emblematic of the war. "To my surprise, the image became iconic, capturing a sense of the front line in a young Marine's face," Sinco wrote later in the L.A. Times.

But after his return home, Miller's life began to unravel, and he became a different kind of symbol: a medically discharged former vet who suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, wartime flashbacks, and social isolation. Sinco continued to follow Miller's story and created a moving multimedia piece called "The Marlboro Marine" on the photojournalism website mediastorm.org (as we recounted in American Photo's March/April story on "The Photographer as Director").

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