14
Apr
20

Exhibition: ‘Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus’ at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich

Exhibition dates: 29th February – 24th May 2020

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur.

The Fotomuseum Winterthur, Zurich has temporarily closed until further notice due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican militiawoman training on the beach outside Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

 

“Moments even of beauty. “Well I speak of ‘the lust of the eye’ – a biblical phrase – because much of the appeal of battle is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange… but, there is of course an element of beauty in this. And I must say that this, is, surely from ancient times one of the most enduring appeals of battle.””

.
Anonymous. From Episode 26 of ‘The World Art War’, 1973-74

 

 

The lust of the eye

While “there has been a long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones”, and this exhibition “explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men,” how do war photographs taken by women differ from their male counterparts? What does being a woman bring to the table of war photography that is different, in terms of engagement with people, feeling, context, and time and place? Do they have to differ?

The press release states that, “Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them.” In other words they defy the patriarchal structures that define contemporary society, because they operate outside what is expected of them. But does that make their photographs any different to that of men? Or, while defying hegemonic structures, do they still buy into a systematic photographic representation of war that has existed for decades?

While the press release offers a sop to difference – positing that, “in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population” – this nuancing is not greatly evident in the photographs in this posting.

Personally what I am looking for is a more empathetic way photography can portray the effects of war through storytelling, not just the physical evidence – I was there, I captured this – but the feelings that war evokes. I, for one, never get this from the war photography of the photojournalists. The images they make are made for the fast-moving world of news reportage, and they are always working to find the one image, the one instance, that bears “witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers.” Rarely does this strategy work.

Much of the display of the appeal of battle in the history of war photography “is simply this attraction of the outlandish, the strange…” With much war photography, “there is of course an element of beauty in this.” Consider Carolyn Cole’s ethereally beautiful photograph Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia (2003, below). Who could not agree with the artist that there is not an element of beauty in this – held in opposition to its being “other” than reportage.

But if you read the poem Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) by the British war poet Keith Douglas (below), dead at 24 on the battlefield of Normandy, this poem has more engagement, more heartfelt feeling about war, death, love and loss in its prophetic lines than a thousand images I will never remember.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) (1943)

Keith Douglas 

Three weeks gone and the combatants gone,
returning over the nightmare ground
we found the place again, and found
the soldier sprawling in the sun.

The frowning barrel of his gun
overshadowing. As we came on
that day, he hit my tank with one
like the entry of a demon.

Look. Here in the gunpit spoil
the dishonoured picture of his girl
who has put: Steffi. Vergissmeinnicht.
in a copybook gothic script.

We see him almost with content,
abased, and seeming to have paid
and mocked at by his own equipment
that’s hard and good when he’s decayed.

But she would weep to see today
how on his skin the swart flies move;
the dust upon the paper eye
and the burst stomach like a cave.

For here the lover and killer are mingled
who had one body and one heart.
And death who had the soldier singled
has done the lover mortal hurt.

 

Remember the war poet Keith Douglas (English, 1920-44) killed in the Invasion of Normandy on June 9, 1944 at the age of 24.

 

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Man with child in militia dress, Barcelona, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain' August 1936

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
Republican soldiers with artillery, Monte Aragon, east of Huesca, Spain
August 1936
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937) 'War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain' 1937

 

Gerda Taro (German, 1910-1937)
War orphan eating soup, Madrid, Spain
1937
Gelatin silver print
© International Center of Photography, New York

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
View of the landing craft, Normandy Beach, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Fall of the citadel' 1944

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Fall of the citadel. The black cloud of smoke mounts high after first bombs have been dropped by P38s, Saint-Malo, France
1944
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau' Germany, 1945

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Freed prisoners scavenging in the rubbish dump, Dachau
Germany, 1945
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

Lee Miller wrote: ‘Prisoners were prowling these heaps, some of which were burning, in the hope of finding something more presentable than what they were wearing already’

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977) 'Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary' 1946

 

Lee Miller (American, 1907-1977)
Homeless children, Budapest, Hungary
1946
Gelatin silver print
© Lee Miller Archives, England 2019. All rights reserved

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' April 1967

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US Navy officer Vernon Wike with a dying US Marine at the Battle of Hill 881, near Khe Sanh
April 1967
Gelatin silver print

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006) 'Vietnam' September 1966

 

Catherine Leroy (French, 1944-2006)
Vietnam. US bombs pummel Binh Dinh province
September 1966
Gelatin silver print

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon' 1976

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
Massacre at Quarantaine in Beirut, Lebanon
1976
Gelatin silver print
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008) 'The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia' 30 May 1991

 

Françoise Demulder (French, 1947-2008)
The capture of Addis Ababa: a partisan of the Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian Peoples, Ethiopia
30 May 1991
Pigment print on baryta paper
42 x 29.7 cm
© Succession Françoise Demulder/Roger-Viollet

Fall of Addis Ababa. F.D.R.P.E. (Revolutionary Democratic Front of the Ethiopian People). Ethiopia, May 30, 1991

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945) 'Nouenna, Western Sahara' December 1976

 

Christine Spengler (French, b. 1945)
Nouenna, Western Sahara. A woman holds her child and a rifle during training of Polisario soldiers in Western Sahara. The Polisario was an army dedicated to fighting Moroccan and Mauritanian occupation
December 1976
Gelatin silver print
© Christine Spengler

 

 

The exhibition Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus is devoted to photojournalistic coverage of international wars and conflicts. On display are some 140 images shot between 1936 and 2011 by a number of women photojournalists and documentary photographers: Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), Françoise Demulder (1947-2008), Catherine Leroy (1944-2006), Susan Meiselas (b. 1948), Lee Miller (1907-1977), Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014), Christine Spengler (b. 1945) and Gerda Taro (1910-1937). Their pictures provide a fragmentary insight into the complex reality of war, taking in a range of military theatres from the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Vietnam War to more recent international conflicts in the Balkans, Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

The positions of the eight photographers present different ways of engaging with war and its effects – from traditional war reporting and embedded photojournalism to innovative approaches to social documentary photography. The particular perspectives chosen for the exhibition shift between objective distance and personal emotional involvement.

Curated by Anne-Marie Beckmann and Felicity Korn and adapted by Nadine Wietlisbach for Fotomuseum Winterthur, the exhibition focuses on women’s positions, making clear the long tradition of female photographers working in crisis zones. In the process, it explodes the commonly held notion that war photography is a professional world entirely populated by men. Even though the staging and narrative strategies of female photographers do not differ in any fundamental way from those of their male colleagues, women have had to repeatedly carve out their position on the front line and operate outside the structures envisaged for them. On the other hand, in some regions and cultural milieus, their gender has also given them privileges denied to their male colleagues granting them access to families and to people affected by the conflict. This has enabled them to paint a nuanced picture of the effects of war on the civilian population.

The pictures shown in the exhibition were primarily intended for the fast-moving world of news reportage. Their distribution via mass media has made them a significant force, influencing the discourses being conducted around war and discussions about the controversial impact of images of war. Shot over a period of almost a century, these pictures also bear witness to the evolution of photojournalism as a professional field – especially when seen in the context of a constantly changing media landscape that is once again undergoing radical upheaval as the digital revolution takes its course.

The photographers’ choice of visual and narrative strategies is the product of an ongoing quest, as they seek to bear witness to unimaginable realities, to move viewers, to sensitise them to the complex geo- and sociopolitical circumstances in the combat zones, and ultimately to have an effect on people’s attitudes and actions by making these situations visible. In an age when global conflict is a constant, these strategies continue to express the belief that engaging with images of violence can help us to take responsibility and bring about change.

 

The Women behind the Camera

In her pictures of the Spanish Civil War, German Jewish photographer Gerda Taro (1910-1937) sided with the political agenda of the Republicans. With the genre of photo essays still in its infancy, her pictures found their way into magazines like Vu and Regards. Taro was the first woman war photographer to be killed in the field: her tragic death in 1937 at the age of only twenty-six garnered international attention. However, she faded into oblivion soon afterwards, as picture agencies increasingly accredited her photographs to her partner Robert Capa.

In 1944, as a correspondent for the fashion magazine Vogue, American photographer Lee Miller (1907-1977) began documenting the Allied push against the German Reich. Initially commissioned to take pictures in a military hospital, Miller found herself on the front line owing to an internal error in military communications. She accompanied the Allied troops as they advanced from Normandy into southern Germany. Miller was one of the group of photojournalists who witnessed the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps at firsthand directly after their liberation.

One of the best-known photojournalists of the Vietnam War is French photographer Catherine Leroy (1944-2006). Her pictures give a clear indication of the freedom of movement she enjoyed on the front lines, where she took photographs of the conflict both from the air and on the ground, often creating short sequences of images showing a particular chain of events. Magazines like Paris Match and Life made use of the narrative potential of these pictures and printed full-page spreads of her work.

Françoise Demulder (1947-2008) likewise began her career in Vietnam, where in 1975, after most foreign journalists had already left the country, she took exclusive pictures of North Vietnamese troops invading Saigon. While working for the Gamma and Sipa Press photo agencies, Demulder also turned her attention to military actions and their impact on the civilian population.

Christine Spengler (b. 1945), who was born in Alsace, took her first photographs of an armed conflict in Chad. Later, in the 1970s, she began documenting a range of conflicts and crises in different parts of the world, including Vietnam as well as Cambodia, Iran, Western Sahara and Lebanon. A particular focus of her photographs are the local women and children and the lives they lead behind the front lines.

As an independent photographer, American Susan Meiselas (b. 1948) documented the Sandinista uprising against the Somoza regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Her photo of the “Molotov Man” went on to become a cult image and is still in circulation today as a symbol of protest used in a wide range of contexts. Meiselas, who would become a Magnum photographer, chose colour as a medium for her documentary work at a time when its use was mainly limited to commercial projects. Her book Nicaragua is one of the earliest colour publications documenting war.

American Carolyn Cole (b. 1961), who has worked for the Los Angeles Times since 1994, also takes pictures in colour. She has worked as a photojournalist in the Kosovo War, Afghanistan, Liberia and Iraq. Her photographs, which are still used today in both print and online media, reveal a contemporary approach to war photography that is a reflection as much as anything of technical changes within the profession.

In the 1990s German photographer Anja Niedringhaus (1965-2014) began working in war and crisis zones ranging from the Balkans to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Niedringhaus felt a special sense of connection to the civilian population, whose living conditions she documented. As an “embedded journalist”, she would accompany soldiers on operations, reporting up-close on their deployment in the different combat zones. On 4 April 2014, Niedringhaus was shot and killed inside a base used by security forces in Khost Province during her coverage of the elections in Afghanistan.

Press release from the Fotomuseum Winterthur website [Online] Cited 11/03/2020

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Traditional Indian dance mask from the town of Monimbó, adopted by the rebels during the fight against Somoza to conceal identity, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter's burned house in Monimbó, asking "Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer", Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall graffiti on Somoza supporter’s burned house in Monimbó, asking “Where is Norman Gonzales? The dictatorship must answer”, Nicaragua
1978
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua' July 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Sandinistas at the walls of the Estelí National Guard headquarters, Nicaragua
July 1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Wall, Managua, Nicaragua' 1979

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Wall, Managua, Nicaragua
1979
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948) 'Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador' 1980

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Soldiers search bus passengers along the Northern Highway, El Salvador
1980
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes' April 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
An image of Saddam Hussein, riddled with bullet holes, is painted over by Salem Yuel. Symbols of the leader disappeared quickly throughout Baghdad soon after US troops arrived in the city and took control, Baghdad, Iraq
April 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq' 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Iraqi police officers line up in combat gear to take part in one of several war preparation exercises, Baghdad, Iraq
2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Refugee children line up for a meagre handout of rice, the only food they receive at the refugee camp where they are staying on the outskirts of Monroiva, Liberia
August 2003
Gelatin silver print
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia' August 2003

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
Dozens of bodies are laid in a mass grave on the outskirts of Monrovia, Liberia
August 2003
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961) 'A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq' August 2004

 

Carolyn Cole (American, b. 1961)
A US marine is covered in camouflage face paint during the battle for Najaf, Iraq, where American forces spent weeks bombing and fighting their way to the city’s holy Imam Ali Shrine, before negotiating an end to the fighting, Najaf, Iraq
August 2004
© Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Afghan men on a motorcycle overtake Canadian soldiers with the Royal Canadian Regiment during a patrol in the Panjwaii district, southwest of Kandahar, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'An Afghan boy holds a toy gun' September 2009

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
An Afghan boy holds a toy gun as he enjoys a ride with others on a merry-go-round to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Kabul, Afghanistan
September 2009
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A US Marine of the 1st Division carries a GI Joe mascot as a good luck charm in his backpack while his unit pushes further into the western part of the city, Fallujah, Iraq
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district' November 2004

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Baghdad, Iraq. US Marines raid the house of an Iraqi delegate in the Abu Ghraib district
November 2004
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat' September 2010

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
A Canadian soldier with the Royal Canadian Regiment chases a chicken during a patrol in Salavat. Seconds later, the Canadian patrol comes under attack by militants who toss grenades over the wall, Salavat, Afghanistan
September 2010
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014) 'Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip' March 2006

 

Anja Niedringhaus (German, 1965-2014)
Palestinians enjoy a ride at an amusement park outside Gaza City, Gaza City, Gaza Strip
March 2006
© picture alliance / AP Images

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book cover

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book cover

 

 

Discover eight remarkable women war photographers who have documented harrowing and unforgettable crises and combat around the world for the past eighty years.

Women have been on the front lines of war photography for more than a century. With access to places men cannot go and with startling empathy in the face of danger, the women who photograph war lend a unique perspective to the consequences of conflict. From intimate glimpses of daily life to the atrocities of conflict, this powerful book reveals the range and depth of eight women photographers’ contributions to wartime photojournalism.

Each photographer is introduced by a brief, informative essay followed by reproductions of a selection of their works. Included here are images by Lee Miller, who documented the liberation of Dachau and Buchenwald. The first woman to parachute into Vietnam, Catherine Leroy was on the ground during the Tet Offensive and was captured by the North Vietnamese Army at the age of 22. Susan Meiselas raised international awareness around the Somoza regime’s catastrophic effects in Nicaragua.

German reporter Anja Niedringhaus worked on assignment in nearly every major conflict of the 1990s, from the Balkans to Libya, Iraq to Afghanistan. The work of Carolyn Cole, Francoise Demulder, Christine Spengler, and Gerda Taro round out this collective profile of courage under pressure and of humanity in the face of war.

163 colour photographs

 

About the Authors

Anne-Marie Beckmann is an art historian and curator. She is Director of the Deutsche Borse Photography Foundation in Frankfurt, Germany. She has published several books on photography. Felicity Korn is an art historian, curator, and an advisor to the Director General at the Museum Kunstpalast in Dusseldorf, Germany. She was previously a curator at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt.

 

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

'Women War Photographers - From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus' book pages

 

Women War Photographers – From Lee Miller to Anja Niedringhaus book pages

 

 

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Grüzenstrasse 44 + 45
CH-8400
Winterthur (Zürich)

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Sunday 11 am – 6 pm
Wednesday 11 am – 8 pm
Closed on Mondays

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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