14
Jun
13

Exhibition: ‘Tim Hetherington / Doug Rickard’ at Stills Gallery, Sydney

Exhibition dates: 22nd May to 22nd June 2013
In association with Yossi Milo Gallery and Head On Photo Festival

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“Our generation is not attached to this myth of photography as objective reporting because we know it’s not. And so he and I had been kind of playing with the idea of, so where is that line? What does that mean? Are we, by definition, objective? Is there something else that can be reported about war that can be more about the experience? That touches on what it’s like to be there, on the individual conflict of what it means to be there? That’s what that particular work is about.”

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Chris Anderson

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The intimacy of war

Both of these series depict human bodies under surveillance. In one (Tim Hetherington) the subject is un/aware. Having given the photographer prior consent to be photographed while they were sleeping the American servicemen remain blissfully unaware of the result of the camera “snapping” them. Just as they seem to be on the very verge of snapping in the video Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009, below). The psychological scars of war don’t differentiate between awake and asleep, aware and unaware:

“The photographer wanted to reveal the soldiers how they must seem to their mothers: innocent, vulnerable. Still it is a portrait of the scars of war because, as Hetherington said, their sleep was often helped along by drugs… That a soldier allowed Hetherington to capture him while asleep illustrates the photographer’s dedication and connection to the platoon.” (Philip Brookman, Corcoran chief curator on the Washington Post website)

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Hetherington spent 15 months in Afghanistan between 2007-2008 following the members of a 15-strong platoon of US paratroopers at one of the most remote and dangerous outposts in the war zone. He went on to make the award winning film Restrepo (2010) with the footage that he shot during his year-long engagement with the spaces of war. In repose, the US soldiers seem angelic, contemplative, or vulnerable: in the photographs posted here I see Adonis (Alcantara), foetal (Kelso), corpse (Lizama) and death mask (Richardson). As Michael Fried comments on the 1930s Walker Evans subway photographs were he took pictures of commuters with a hidden camera, “the notion that persons who are unaware of being photographed who at the limit are unaware of being beheld manifest the inner truth of their meaning on their faces.” This way of capturing an inner truth is rare in the history of art. Although there are plenty of individual paintings that depict sleeping men in art I could find no body of work that depicts men sleeping in painting or photography.

Although the exhibition is of the still photographs, what I find most chilling is how Hetherington melds the sleeping bodies with action footage in the video. The overlaying of the sound of helicopters onto images of the sleeping soldiers, the blending of bodies and machines, the reverberation of voices with the rat tat tat of heavy weapons fire is most disturbing. The look in the soldier’s eyes as he freaks out when one of his compatriots is shot at 3.24 – 3.38 of the video is frightening. The grief, the fear is palpable – and then to end the video with the corpse-like body of Lizama… THIS is the horror of war. Kill or be killed, boredom, nightmares, as if fighting and sleeping in a dream. Hetherington lays it all on the line for the viewer.

“For me, it’s kind of the closest thing I’ve seen, in any form, that actually shows what it must feel like to be in combat. You’re right there with the soldiers, and they’re not heroic; they’re really just struggling to come to terms with what is going on around them. That’s really what this is. So instead of showing them just being honorable, he’s showing this stuff, the scenes of them being in combat, as a kind of dream.” (Philip Brookman, Corcoran chief curator)

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to Stills Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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“The book and film are about the intimacy of war,” explains Hetherington. “And that’s what I see when I see the photographs of these guys sleeping. We are used to seeing soldiers as cardboard cut-outs. We dehumanise them, but war is a very intimate act. All of those soldiers would die for each other. We’re not talking about friendship. We’re talking about brotherhood.”

“You can get bored of taking pictures of fighting,” he says. “I got more interested in the relationship between the soldiers. That’s where the shots of them sleeping came from. If you go to these places you can sometimes get all your media oxygen sucked up by the fighting; we were lucky to have time to explore other things.”

“In America, soldiers are used by the right wing as a symbol of patriotic duty, but the truth is they are all individuals,” he concludes. “And the Left want a moral condemnation of the war. What I say is that if we have a full understanding of what the soldiers can and can’t do out there, it is a good starting point for peace-building. The heart of the war machine is in fact taking a group of young men and putting them on the side of a mountain. We need to understand that experience. Certainly if we have any hope of properly reintegrating them into society.”

Text from “Combat fatigue: Tim Hetherington’s intimate portraits of US soldiers at rest reveal the other side of Afghanistan” by Rob Sharp on The Independent website, 11th September 2010

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Tim Hetherington. 'Alcantara, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan' 2008

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Tim Hetherington
Alcantara, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Donoho-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Donoho, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Kelso_1-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Kelso_3-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Kelso, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Kim-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Kim, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Lizama-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Lizama, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Nevalla-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Nevalla, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Richardson-WEB

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Tim Hetherington
Richardson, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan
2008
from Sleeping Soldiers, 2008
Digital C-prints
76.2 x 114.3cm
Editions of 18 + 4AP

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Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo.

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“In association with Head On Photo Festival, Stills Gallery is delighted to host compelling works by two internationally acclaimed artists, Tim Hetherington and Doug Rickard, brought to Australian audiences from Yossi Milo Gallery, New York.

Without the guns and artillery of war, or the armor of bravado and aggression, Tim Hetherington’s images of sleeping American soldiers are disarmingly peaceful and childlike in their vulnerability. Hetherington observed this active-duty battalion while they were stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley during 2007-08, capturing beneath the camouflage the most intimate of moments, which are seemingly at odds with common reportage images of adrenaline-fuelled and stony-faced soldiers. Through his photographs, writing and films, Tim Hetherington gave us new ways to look at and think about human suffering. Tim was tragically killed on April 20, 2011, while photographing and filming the conflict in Libya.

Doug Rickard’s A New American Picture depicts American street scenes, located using the internet platform Google Street View. Over a four-year period, Rickard virtually explored the roads of America looking for forgotten, economically devastated, and largely abandoned places. After locating and composing scenes of urban and rural decay, Rickard re-photographed the images on his computer screen, freeing the image from its technological origins and re-presenting them on a new documentary plane. Rickard’s work evokes a connection to the tradition of American street photography. He both follows and advances that tradition, with a documentary strategy that acknowledges an increasingly technological world. Collectively, these images present a photographic portrait of the socially disenfranchised and economically powerless, those living an inversion of the American Dream.

Both artists are highly regarded for their contributions to contemporary photographic and film practices. Before his untimely death Hetherington received numerous accolades for his documentation of conflict zones, including the 2007 World Press Photo of the Year, the Rory Peck Award for Features (2008), an Alfred I. duPont Award (2009), and an Academy Award nomination for Restrepo (2011). His work has posthumously become part of the Magnum Photo Archive. Doug Rickard is founder of American Suburb X and These Americans, and his work has been widely exhibited including in New Photography 2011 at MOMA, New York, Le Bal, Paris, and the 42nd edition of Les Rencontres d’Arles. A monograph of A New American Picture was first published in 2010 and was rereleased in 2012.This is the first opportunity for Australian audiences to see many of these works, and it is also a new collaboration with the prestigious Yossi Milo Gallery, established in 2000, and focused on the representation of artists specializing in photo-based art, video and works on paper.”

Text from the Stills Gallery website

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Doug Rickard. '#32.700542, Dallas, TX (2009)' 2011

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Doug Rickard
#32.700542, Dallas, TX (2009)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41 cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

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Doug Rickard. '#34.546147, Helena-West Helena, AR (2008)' 2010

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Doug Rickard
#34.546147, Helena-West Helena, AR (2008)
2010
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41 cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

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Doug Rickard. '#40.700776, Jersey City, NJ (2007)' 2011

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Doug Rickard
#40.700776, Jersey City, NJ (2007)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41 cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

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Doug Rickard. '#40.805716, Bronx, NY (2007)' 2011

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Doug Rickard
#40.805716, Bronx, NY (2007)
2011
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41 cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

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Doug Rickard. '#82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009)' 2010

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Doug Rickard
#82.948842, Detroit, MI (2009)
2010
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
101.6 x 162.56cm
Edition of 5 + 3AP

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Doug Rickard. '#114.196622, Lennox, CA (2007)' 2012

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Doug Rickard
#114.196622, Lennox, CA (2007)
2012
from A New American Picture
Archival pigment prints
66.04 x 105.41 cm
Editions of 5 + 3AP

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Stills Gallery
36 Gosbell Street
Paddington NSW 2021
Australia
T: 61 2 9331 7775

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11.00 am – 6.00 pm

Stills Gallery 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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