What is going on in this picture?

A friend of mine was recently using this Boston Globe “Best of 2011″ Photo for his screensaver.  As soon as I saw it, I had to try and figure out what was going on in the picture. The picture is of a group of Libyan rebels fighting against Qaddafi forces in the town of Sirte on October 10, 2011.  Thanks to Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images for snagging this crazy picture.

My immediate question is: What’s with the guitar?  But there are lots of questions and interesting things to ponder.

OK, I’m trying to figure out several things, the most important being the guitar.

  1. So, I’ve heard of buglers, drums, whistles etc. being used in battle to signal maneuver and coordinate action. But a guy playing rhythm guitar?  If anyone can tell me what is up with the guitar playing in combat, I would love to know.  Seriously, does anyone know?  I admire his bravery and I guess it would be cool to stand off Qaddafi loyalists with some Dave Matthews Band in the background.  But, seriously, does anyone know what’s up?  Is this like that crazy scene with Antonio Banderas and Enrique Eglesias in the Mariachi shoot out from “Once Upon a Time in Mexico“?
  2. I’d hate to be Guy #2 ducking out around the corner. Especially with Guy #3 firing behind me.  Guy #3 appears to be using the most unstable and least mobile shooting position ever.  I’m scared just looking at Guy #3.
  3. For all those (including me) that were once in the military and wondered why the simulated opposing force (OPFOR) just seemed to get dressed up in any type of camouflage ever created…well, it turns out there is a force that wears every type of camouflage ever made – the Libyan rebels.  The guys around #4 remind me of old OPFOR digs.
  4. Lastly, Guy #2 is in flip flops firing a machine gun.  Hard core.  The shell casings under his feet are probably on fire.


  1. I don’t think so. At least for guy #1, it looks like there is a shadow on the sidewalk. For #4 I can’t tell cause it’s in the shade.

    I also thought the guitar might be photoshopped into the guy’s hands. but it also looks like the shadow is on the ground.

    I don’t know, it’s weird.

  2. Reminds me of the famous Don McCullin photo of the guitar player in Beirut.

    People playing music in the middle of gun battles is not unusual. The Scots had/have bagpipers playing and GIs going into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan have stereos blasting heavy metal etc.

    • Mike,

      Thanks for the note. I’m not familiar with the Don McCullin photo from Beirut. Could you post a link for it?

      I totally get the music in battle thing. I just thought it was strange to see a guy with a guitar, and maybe no weapon, right next to a guy in the middle firing. Likewise, the guitar wouldn’t seem to be very loud next to weapons firing. I’ve gotten some good emails tonight with more details about the photo, which I’ll post in the morning.

    • Yes, I believe so. They seem to be having the best time you could have while in the middle of a gun battle. Friends, Music and Fun…Sounds like a Budweiser commercial.

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