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Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Posting Part 2

Exhibition dates: 11th November 2012 – 3rd February 2013

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This is the biggest posting on one exhibition that I have ever undertaken on Art Blart!

As befits the gravity of the subject matter this posting is so humongous that I have had to split it into 4 separate postings. This is how to research and stage a contemporary photography exhibition that fully explores its theme. The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals producing an exhibition that features 26 sections (an inspired and thoughtful selection) that includes nearly 500 objects that illuminate all aspects of WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY.

I have spent hours researching and finding photographs on the Internet to support the posting. It has been a great learning experience and my admiration for photographers of all types has increased. I have discovered the photographs and stories of new image makers that I did not know and some hidden treasures along the way. I hope you enjoy this monster posting on a subject matter that should be consigned to the history books of human evolution.

**Please be aware that there are graphic photographs in all of these postings.** Part 1Part 3Part 4

Marcus

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Many thankx to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for allowing me to publish some of the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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14. Photographic Essays showcases selections from two distinct storylines: Larry Burrows’ Yankee Papa 13, published in Life magazine; and Pulitzer Prize winner Todd Heisler’s series Final Salute, for Denver’s Rocky Mountain News. Burrows follows a man through a rescue attempt in Vietnam; Heisler documents a Marine major assigned to casualty notifications. (12 images, 6 from each photographer, as well as the magazine and newspaper in which the series were published)

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The view from inside Marine helicopter Yankee Papa 13, Vietnam, March 1965

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The caption that accompanied this photograph in the April 16, 1965, issue of LIFE: “From the downed YP3 in the background, the wounded gunner, Sergeant Owens, races to Yankee Papa 13, where Farley waits in the doorway.”

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The caption that accompanied this photograph in LIFE: “Farley, unable to leave his gun position until YP13 is out of enemy range, stares in shock at YP3′s co-pilot, Lieutenant Magel, on the floor.”

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Farley and Hoilien, dead tired, linger beside their helicopter and continue to talk over the mission

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In a supply shack, hands covering his face, an exhausted, worn James Farley gives way to grief

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Larry Burrows
One Ride with Yankee Papa 13
1965
Photo Essay
© Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

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For the complete photo essay and text from LIFE magazine please see the Vietnam War, LIFE Magazine web page

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Todd Heisler
Untitled
2005
from the series Final Salute
© Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News

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The night before the burial of her husband’s body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of “Cat,” and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. “I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it,” she said. “I think that’s what he would have wanted.”

To see the whole photo essay and view videos please see the Rocky Mountain News Final Salute web page.

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15. Executions are among the frequent photographs in wartime: Officials and the public seek confirmation that the enemy is dead; the executioners often forcefully request images to signify their power. An 1867 photograph by François Aubert shows the bloodied shirt of Maximilian I after the Austro-Hungarian archduke was shot by a nationalist firing squad in Mexico. Eddie Adams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of the Vietnamese police chief shooting a Viet Cong prisoner came to symbolize the brutality of the Vietnam War. Jahangir Razmi’s Firing Squad in Iran (1979) also won a Pulitzer; Razmi’s newspaper, Ettela’at, ran the photograph without credit, in order to protect him. He was not recognized until a 2006 Wall Street Journal article. (20 images)

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Francois Aubert French (1829-1906)
The Shirt of the Emperor, Worn during His Execution, Mexico
1867
Albumen print
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, gift of the Howard Gilman Foundation, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art Resource, NY

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Eddie Adams
Saigon Execution (General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon)
February 1, 1968
Silver gelatin photograph

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Although the image brought Adams the Pulitzer Prize, he would express discomfort with it later in life.

“The general killed the Viet Cong; I killed the general with my camera. Still photographs are the most powerful weapon in the world. People believe them; but photographs do lie, even without manipulation. They are only half-truths. … What the photograph didn’t say was, ‘What would you do if you were the general at that time and place on that hot day, and you caught the so-called bad guy after he blew away one, two or three American people?” (Wikipedia)

For Adams, the lie was the omission of context – that the plainclothes Lem had allegedly just been caught having murdered not only South Vietnamese police but their civilian family members; that Loan was a good officer and not a cold-blooded killer… Like any great work of art, Adams’ serendipitous photograph took on a life of its own… and a tapestry of meanings richer than its creator could ever have intended. (Text from the ExecutedToday website)

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16. Leisure Time is another popular subject. This section features images that range from a 1958 photograph (by Loomis Dean) of an Elvis Presley serenade in the barracks to Stephen Colbert’s 2009 Iraq appearance in a camouflage suit (by Moises Saman). More-intimate moments show an off-duty serviceman sleeping on a cot next to a wall of pinups (by Edouard Gluck) as well as another serviceman listening to music on headphones (by Alvaro Zavala). Army Staff Sergeant Mark Grimshaw captures an American soldier stationed in Iraq, tending grass that the soldier has grown. (The soldier’s wife sent him seeds from the United States, but he couldn’t get the grass to grow until he purchased sod from a local Iraqi farmer.) (21 images) 

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Álvaro Ybarra Zavala
Untitled
2003
from the series Apocalypse

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More images and text from the sequence can be seen at Álvaro Ybarra Zavala’s Projects web page

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Mark A. Grimshaw American (born 1968)
First Cut, Iraq
July 2004
Inkjet print, printed 2012
Courtesy of the photographer
© Mark Grimshaw

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17. Support features photographs of people planning operations and supplying troops behind the front, from flying troops and supplies to the battlefront, to making bread in factories and building temporary bridges. One iconic 1942 photo by Alfred Palmer shows women aircraft workers polishing the noses of bomber planes. A 1915/18 picture by an unknown photographer depicts two men working early battery-operated phones. In 2001, James Nachtwey captured a firefighter walking over burning rubble at the World Trade Center in New York. (13 images)

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Alfred Palmer American (birth date unknown)
Women aircraft workers finishing transparent bomber noses for fighter and reconnaissance planes at Douglas Aircraft Co. Plant in Long Beach, California
1942
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels in honor of his sister, Genevieve Namerow

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James Nachtwey
Firefighters search for survivors at Ground Zero
2001
© James Nachtwey

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18. Medicine, divided into two subsections, presents doctors and nurses at work at the front, and individuals who are surviving with injuries. “Wartime Medicine presents the conditions of medical operations on the battlefield, from Vo Anh Khanh’s photograph of North Vietnam surgeons working in a swamp to Larry Burrows’ emergency dressing station in Vietnam. Subsequent to War showcases survivors. A 2007 photograph by Peter van Agtmael shows a soldier with a prosthetic leg playing with his two sons and light sabers in a field. A 1985 photograph by Michael Coyne pictures a rehabilitation center stacked with braces and artificial limbs for the victims of war in Iran and Iraq. Nina Berman’s 2004 portrait of PTSD patient Randall Clunen, from the series Purple Hearts, relates the psychic scars of war. (22 images)

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Vo Anh Khanh
A Cambodian guerrilla is carried to an improvised operating room in a mangrove swamp in this Viet Cong haven on the Ca Mau Peninsula
1970
This scene was an actual medical situation, not a publicity setup
© National Geographic Society

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Peter van Agtmael American (born 1981)
Darien, Wisconsin, October 22, 2007
2007
Chromogenic print, ed. # 1/10 (printed 2009)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of David and Cindy Bishop Donnelly, John Gaston, Mary and George Hawkins and Mary and Jim Henderson in memory of Beth Block
© Peter van Agtmael / Magnum Photos

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Michael Coyne
Rehabilitation Centre – Iran
1985
Type C print
55cm x 36.6cm

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Nina Berman American (b. 1960)
Randall Clunen
2004
from the series Purple Hearts
Pigment print
28 x 28 in.

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19. Faith presents devotion during wartime. The Oath of War (1942), by Mark Markov-Grinberg, taken minutes before a regiment attacked an entrenched German defensive position, shows a soldier kissing his gun. A 1918 image by an unknown photographer depicts a soldier’s grave in France, marked by a wooden cross and the soldier’s helmet, under which his Bible was found. Naval photographer R. Woodward’s 1945 photograph depicts a shipboard service performed after a Japanese plane dropped two bombs on the ship; the officiating chaplain is possibly Father O’Callahan, who subsequently received the Medal of Honor. Three days before the start of the Iraq War in 2003, Hayne Palmour IV captured the baptism of a Marine by a Navy chaplain in Kuwait, in a pool of water constructed from sandbags. (12 images)

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Mark Borisovich Markov-Grinberg Russian (1907-2003)
The Oath of War (Soviet soldier kissing his rifle)
1939, printed later
Ferrotyped gelatin silver print

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R. Woodward, USNR, American (birth date unknown)
Religious services under the blasted flight deck of the USS Franklin
March 1945
Gelatin silver print, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church

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20. The focus of Refugee moves away from the combatants’ standpoint and into the perspectives of others, including individuals who have been displaced as well as left behind. This section presents people either fleeing battle or living as expatriates in a new place. The Pulitzer Prize-winning image shot in 1965 by Sawada Kyoichi shows a Vietnamese mother and her children wading across a river to escape from a U.S. napalm strike on their village. An image by Hilmar Pabel depicts a family fleeing across the border in the Bavarian Forest to the West, escaping in the night carrying suitcases. A famous 1993 picture by Gilles Peress, of hands pressing against both sides of a windowpane, documents the evacuation of Jews from Sarajevo. A 1994/95 portrait by Fazal Sheikh depicts a mother and her two children sitting on the ground somewhere in Tanzania; her newborn’s name, Makantamba, means “one who was born at the time of war.” Jonathan C. Torgovnik’s Valentine with her daughters Amelie and Inez, Rwanda (2006) is taken from the series Intended Consequences. An image by Alexandria Avakian depicts a Lebanese refugee in traditional dress mowing a lawn in suburban Michigan. (8 images)

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Sawada Kyoichi
Mother and children wade across river to escape U.S. bombing. Qui Nhon, South Vietnam
September 1965

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Hilmar Pabel German, 1910-2000
A family flees across the border in the Bavarian Forest to the West
1948-49
Gelatin silver print, printed 1995
Collection of Alan Lloyd Paris
© bpk, Berlin / Art Resource, NY

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Gilles Peress French, b. 1946
Evacuation of the Jews, Skanderia, Sarajevo, Bosnia
1993
from the book Farewell to Bosnia, 1994
Gelatin silver print
16 x 20 “

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Alexandria Avakian
Dearborn, Michigan, June 2002: Tufaha Baydayn, a Lebanese American, fled Lebanon’s civil war in the 1970s
2002

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Jonathan C. Torgovnik American (born 1969)
Valentine with her daughters Amelie and Inez, Rwanda
2006
from the series Intended Consequences
Chromogenic print, ed. #11/25
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the artist
© Jonathan Torgovnik

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Exhibition posting continued in Part 3…
Exhibition posting Part 1…

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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
1001 Bissonnet Street
Houston, TX 77005

Opening hours:
Tuesday, Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 10.00 am – 9.00 pm
Friday, Saturday 10.00 am – 7.00 pm
Sunday 12.15 pm – 7.00 pm
Closed Monday, except Monday holidays
Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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