When war with the Islamic State broke out in Iraq in June 2014, the Peshmerga suddenly got another bout of heavy media coverage. At first these armed Kurdish men and women were a “US-trained elite force”, the only one in Iraq capable of stopping ISIS. Then when it became apparent that they were not that at all, they were portrayed as a bunch of old guys with baggy trousers wandering around the front lines. Neither picture of them is particularly true. I knew quite a few Peshmerga from having lived here and knew that they are mostly young, fairly hard-up guys who often work another job alongside, as taxi drivers or shopkeepers. They are not well-trained and they are not well-equipped but they are usually very brave and proud to see themselves as belonging to the Kurdish warrior tradition. I spent a lot of time with them trying to take pictures that showed the good-natured, but shabby, chaos of life as a Peshmerga.

A Kurdish Peshmerga inspects the remains of a car that was used in an ISIS attack on a frontline base outside the town of Tuz Khurmatu.
A Peshmerga uses a piece of broken mirror to shave in the morning on a base in the city of Khanaqin.
1: A peshmerga prepares bread at a base on the outskirts of the city of Kirkuk. 2: The view from a checkpoint as traffic heads out of peshmerga-controlled territory and into ISIS-held territory.
Peshmergq wash and shave in the morning on a base in the town of Khanaqin.
A peshmerga sits beneath a “Dushka” heavy machine gun on the back of a pickup truck near Kirkuk.
A Kurdish peshmerga prays on a frontline base outside the town of Tuz Khumatu.
A peshmerga sleeps in the heat of the afternoon at a base on the outskirts of the city of Kirkuk.
Kurdish peshmerga swim and play in a reservoir on a frontline base outside the town of Tuz Khumatu.
A defunct railway yard that serves as a peshmerga base outside the city of Kirkuk is reflected in a window.
1: Peshmerga officers eat an evening meal on a base in the town of Khanaqin. 2: Peshmerga prepare to go on patrol after an evening meal.
Peshmerga look out from a frontline position overlooking the ISIS-held town of Saadiya the day after an ISIS attack.