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Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Posting Part 3

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

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“War is, above all, grief.”

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Dmitri Baltermants

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“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”

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Salvor Hardin in Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series

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Part three of 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 enlightenment along the way. I despise war, I detest the state and the military that propagate it and I surely hate the power, the money and the ethics of big business that support such a disciplinarian structure for their own ends. I hope you meditate on the images in this monster posting, an exhibition 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 2Part 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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21. Civilians spans World War II through 2008. The subsection “Dead and Wounded” includes Grief, Kerch, Crimea, by Dmitri Baltermants, of civilians in 1942 searching the bodies of Russian Jewish family members who had been executed by Germans soldiers as they retreated. A 2003 photograph, taken by Ahmed Jadallah for the news agency Reuters while he lay wounded from shrapnel, shows bodies in the street in the largest refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. “Daily Life” shows a Congolese woman breastfeeding as a tank rolls by, in a 2008 image by Walter Astrada; Londoners sleeping in an underground train station in 1940, by Bill Brandt; a woman eating bread in Amsterdam during the Hongerwinter famine of 1944, by Cas Oorthuys; a 1940/41 meeting in New York of members of the Bund, an American Nazi party, by Otto Hagel; a monk burning himself in Saigon in 1963, in protest against alleged religious persecution by the South Vietnamese government, by Malcolm Browne; and a man uncovering an anti-personnel land mine in Angola in 2004, by Sean Sutton. Pictures of civilian “Grief” are common, and the images here include a woman in Tehran inspecting photographs of the missing, by Gilles Peress; a man at an airport, grieving alone and holding a folded American flag, by Harry Benson; a father digging a grave for his daughter in a soccer field in Somalia, by Howard Castleberry; and a woman mourning in Afghanistan in 1996, at the grave of her brother who was killed by a Taliban rocket, by James Nachtwey. (46 images)

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Dmitri Baltermants
Grief, Kerch, Crimea
Spring 1942
Silver gelatin print

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“War, is, above all, grief. I photographed non-stop for years and I know that in all that time I produced only five or six real photographs. War is not for photography. If, heaven forbid, I had to photograph war again, I would do it quite differently. I agonise now at the thought of all the things that I did not photograph.”

Dmitri Baltermants quoted in “The Russian War, 1941-1945” (J. Cape, London, 1978)

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Walter Astrada, Argentinean (born 1974)
Congolese women fleeing to Goma
2008
from the series Violence against women in Congo, Rape as weapon of war in DRC
Chromogenic print (printed 2010)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2010
© Walter Astrada

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Cas Oorthuys
Portrait of starving woman in the hunger winter, Amsterdam
1944-1945
Silver gelatin print

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Otto Hagel
German-Americans at a meeting in New Jersey of the Deutsche Bund
1940/41
Silver gelatin print

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Malcolm Browne
Burning Monk – The Self-Immolation
1963

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Harry Benson
Grieving man, holding flag
1971

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22. Children have been consistently photographed during wartime as both victims and soldiers. Images in this section include Sir Cecil Beaton’s Three-year-old Eileen Dunne in Hospital for Sick Children, England (1940); children viewing the bodies of other children who were hanged as collaborators in Russia in the 1940s, by Mark Redkin; Philip Jones Griffiths’ image of a young boy, Called “Little Tiger” for killing two “Vietcong women cadre” – his mother and teacher, it was rumored (1968); children playing “execution” in Italy, by Enzo Sellerio; two orphaned boys smoking cigarettes in post-World War II Japan, by Hayashi Tadahiko; a father home on leave reading the newspaper with his son, who wears his dad’s helmet, by Andrea Bruce; and the 2005 photograph, by Chris Hondros, of a blood-splattered Iraqi girl whose family was mistakenly ambushed by U.S. troops. (13 images) 

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Andrea Bruce. 'Untitled [A father home on leave reading the newspaper with his son, who wears his dad’s helmet]' 2006

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Andrea Bruce
Untitled [A father home on leave reading the newspaper with his son, who wears his dad’s helmet]
2006
from the series When the War Comes Home

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Cecil Beaton. 'Eileen Dunne, aged three, sits in bed with her doll at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, after being injured during an air raid on London in September 1940' 1940

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Cecil Beaton
Eileen Dunne, aged three, sits in bed with her doll at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children, after being injured during an air raid on London in September 1940
1940
Gelatin silver print
© IWM (MH 26395)

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Philip Jones Griffiths Welsh (1936-2008) 'Called "Little Tiger” for killing two "Vietcong women cadre” - his mother and teacher, it was rumored, Vietnam' 1968

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Philip Jones Griffiths Welsh (1936-2008)
Called “Little Tiger” for killing two “Vietcong women cadre” – his mother and teacher, it was rumored, Vietnam
1968
Gelatin silver print
The Philip Jones Griffiths Foundation, courtesy of Howard Greenberg Gallery
© Philip Jones Griffiths / Magnum Photos

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23. Portraits are the most common type of photograph made during conflicts. Dispersed throughout the exhibition, lining the main walkway through the galleries, are the faces of leaders, the enlisted, heroes and war criminals, as well as group portraits. One of the earliest prints in the exhibition is a daguerreotype from the Mexican-American War of a high-ranking officer. Matthew Brady, one of the most famous photographers of the 19th century, was renowned for coverage of the Civil War; his MajorGeneral Joseph Hooker, c. 1863, is on view. Among the most recent is a self-portrait by American Cpl. Reynaldo Leal USMC. Leal – who was born and grew up in Edinburg, Texas, and now lives in El Paso – served in Iraq conducting combat patrols through the villages along the Euphrates. (40 images)

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Reynaldo Leal. 'Self portrait after a patrol' 2004-06

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Corporal Reynaldo Leal USMC American, born 1983
Self‑portrait after a Patrol
c. 2004-06
Inkjet print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Will Michels and Clinton T. Willour
© Reynaldo Leal

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Mathew B. Brady American (1823-1896) 'Major-General Joseph Hooker' c. 1863

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Mathew B. Brady American (1823-1896)
Major-General Joseph Hooker
c. 1863
Salted paper print, hand colored
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by the S. I. Morris Photography Endowment

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Matthew Brady. 'Colonel William Gates, believed to have been taken upon his return from the Mexican War' ca. 1848

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Matthew B. Brady American (1823-1896)
Colonel William Gates, believed to have been taken upon his return from the Mexican War
c. 1848
Half plate daguerreotype, gold toned
Library of Congress

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24. War’s End is identifiable at the moment a photograph is taken. The subsection “Victory/Defeat” is the visual manifest of the outcome of war, from the Japanese signing peace documents on board the USS Missouri, by Carl Mydans; to German generals discussing terms of surrender in the woods just four days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in 1945, by E. G. Malindine; and the raising of the Hammer and Sickle over the Reichstag in Berlin in 1945, by Evgeny Khaldey. Also included is Simon Norfolk’s Victory arch built by the Northern Alliance at the entrance to a local commander’s headquarters in Bamiyan. The empty niche housed the smaller of the two Buddhas, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, from the series Afghanistan: Chronotopia. “Retribution” contains a 1945 image, by Lee Miller, of a concentration-camp guard who was beaten by prisoners after their liberation; and a photograph by Robert Capa of a Frenchwoman who had been impregnated by a German soldier, as she walks through a jeering crowd with her head shaved in punishment and carrying her baby. The photographs in “Homecoming” establish an emotive connection: a family reunion on the tarmac at an Air Force base in California in 1973, by Sal Veder; a mother and son embracing at the Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel in 1976, by Micha Bar-Am; and a man who has returned from duty in Bosnia in 1995 to discover that his home and everyone in it is gone, by Ron Haviv. (23 images) 

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Carl Mydans. 'Japanese signing peace documents on board the USS Missouri' 1945

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Carl Mydans
Japanese signing peace documents on board the ‘USS Missouri’
1945

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Simon Norfolk. 'Victory arch built by the Northern Alliance at the entrance to a local commander’s headquarters in Bamiyan. The empty niche housed the smaller of the two Buddhas, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001' 2001

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Simon Norfolk
Victory arch built by the Northern Alliance at the entrance to a local commander’s headquarters in Bamiyan. The empty niche housed the smaller of the two Buddhas, destroyed by the Taliban in 2001
2001
from the series Afghanistan: Chronotopia

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Robert Capa. 'Collaborator woman who had a German soldier's child, Chartres, 18 August 1944' 1944

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Robert Capa
Collaborator woman who had a German soldier’s child, Chartres, 18 August 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print
33 x 49 cm

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Sal Velder. 'Released prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California on March 17, 1973, as he returns home from the Vietnam War' 1973

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Sal Velder
Released prisoner of war Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm is greeted by his family at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California on March 17, 1973, as he returns home from the Vietnam War
1973
Silver gelatin print
© Sal Velder

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Ron Haviv, American, b.1965 'A Bosnian soldier stands on what is believed to be a mass grave outside his destroyed home. He was the sole survivor of 69 people' 1995

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Ron Haviv American, b.1965
A Bosnian soldier stands on what is believed to be a mass grave outside his destroyed home. He was the sole survivor of 69 people
1995
Inkjet print
Courtesy of Ron Haviv/VII
© Ron Haviv

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Micha Bar-Am Israeli (born Germany, 1930) 'The return from Entebbe, Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel' 1976

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Micha Bar-Am Israeli (born Germany, 1930)
The return from Entebbe, Ben-Gurion Airport, Israel
1976
from the series Promised Land
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Andrea Meislin Gallery, New York
© Micha Bar-Am / Magnum Photos

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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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