Posts Tagged ‘American war photography

08
Aug
21

Review: ‘An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain’ at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 8th August 2021

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Hanoi' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Hanoi
1995
From the series Viêt Nam (1994-98)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In their essential nature men do not change. The great and noble, the Masters of Life, will be great and noble to the end of time, and to contemplate them and their deeds inspires us to endeavour to emulate them. Learn whom a man venerates, and you can come to judge his character. Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

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Alvin Langdon

 

 

Disguising power as virtue or, the Inner Landscape of Beauty

One of the great assets of VR, especially in times of lockdown, is that you can view an exhibition from a distance. Such is the case with this strong exhibition by Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas. It gives the viewer the ability to come to grips with an artists work displayed as a whole, to contemplate the myriad threads that run through the five bodies of work that are presented in the exhibition.

While there are no remarkable “hero” shots contained within the body of Lê’s work, collectively the photographs from each series build a serious interrogation into the contested terrains of colonialism, war, the military, racism and protest. As we know with life nothing is ever black and white, and through her classically inspired photographs Lê probes the interweaving of existence, desire, possession and control in the landscape, in the landscape of life. As assistant curator Kirsten Gaylord observes, “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world?” These are complex issues which Lê addresses with intelligence and rigorous conceptualisation, fully aware of the paradoxes that exist within her inquiry.

My favourite series are the more personal and engaging, the more empathetic and feeling of the works – the first and the last, Viêt Nam (1994-98) and Silent General (2015-ongoing). In Viêt Nam, Lê returns to her homeland of Vietnam after almost 20 years with her large format camera. The resulting meditation on homeland evidenced in beautiful, perfectly formed photographs are moving and touching, poetic reveries on lost innocence, regained? In Silent General, Lê again again puts more of her self on the line, her photographs confronting the “issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.”

I am ambivalent about the other series in the exhibition, which while beautiful have a slightly chilly aura.

In the series Small Wars (1999-2002), Lê photographs Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia with the utmost sense of “authenticity” creating images that “explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.” In 29 Palms (2003-04) she photographs troops training in an American landscape similar to the one they would soon be deployed to in Iraq. In Events Ashore (2005-14) the artist photographs the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world exploring the global reach of the American military, its diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

In Small Wars and 29 Palms, Lê pictures a simulacra of war, simulations of a war already past (and lost), and a war yet to run its course, which would ultimately lead to the withdrawal of US forces. Her work blurs the boundaries between photojournalism and reality / fiction.

The photograph Ambush I (1999-2002, below) from Small Wars is eerily similar to Henri Huet’s photograph of Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows struggling through elephant grass in 1970 (below) with the difference that Burrows is helping to evacuate a wounded soldier, and that Huet, Burrows and two other photojournalists would be killed when their helicopter was shot down over Laos later in February 1971. Similarly, Lê’s photographs Mechanized Assault (2003-2004) shows a pristine landscape foregrounded with immaculate tanks and personnel carriers in the American landscape… when in reality, American Marines photograph the burnt remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks amongst a non-descript landscape of shell holes and mundane buildings (16 April 2003, below). Further, while not a simulation, the very stillness and chillness of Events Ashore – the physical and metaphorical distance of the photographer from the subject, from the reason of the existence of the military – make the photographs in that series seem almost an apologia for the military.

In a quotation, Lê states that, “… I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

I understand what the photographer is attempting, but in one sense I remain unconvinced about the success of the mission.

Simply put, the raison d’etre for the military – despite all protestations to the contrary, despite all the good works they otherwise undertake – is “to engage in combat, should it be required to do so by the national defence policy, and to win. This represents an organisational goal of any military, and the primary focus for military thought through military history.” (Wikipedia) In terms of military doctrine,1 we note that in the history of the United States of America, the country has been at war 225 out of 243 years since 1776. America is a militarised society where the military prosecutes war on its own terms, disguising power as virtue. In terms of the prosecution of war, the country seems to be manifestly belligerent.

The outcome of any war is death. Sure, the soldiers might be there for economic or social reasons, they may experience fear and exhilaration, boredom and dreams, brotherhood and purpose, travel and education… but ultimately the military is a fighting and killing machine. “Young soldiers in combat inevitably confront killing. They take life away from others, and in so doing breach one of the most fundamental moral values of their society, often with long-term consequences.” Listening to an American veteran from the battle of Caens after the D-Day landings in 1944 recently in a documentary, he observed that all war is, is death – dead German soldiers, dead American soldiers, dead civilians. The reality (not a simulation or a reenactment) of Henri Huet’s photograph of dead soldiers, Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh (1965, below) is shocking and unimpeachable.

Soldiers kill. Human beings, civilian and military, die.

And then the military doesn’t want you to know about that. They cover it up. In World War 1, the British stopped posting lists of the missing and dead in the newspapers because there were so many of them. And in the Iraq war, the American military didn’t want photographs of American coffins in the back of a transport plane published because it would upset the families and the public. Even the metadata (hidden text data) written by the military contained in a public domain image of destroyed Iraqi tanks (see below) in 2003 states, “Operation IRAQI FREEDOM is the multinational coalition effort to liberate the Iraqi people, eliminate Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and end the regime of Saddam Hussein.” Outright lies and deception … the invasion was illegal under international law as it violated the UN Charter, there were no weapons of mass destruction found, and no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The Iraq War caused at least one hundred thousand civilian deaths, as well as tens of thousands of military deaths.

Everyone is involved in the construction of the world. You can be informed or not. You have choices. Human beings have a choice to go into the military, or not. The problem is that human beings in power, in control (at the top of the military for example) inspire others to endeavour to emulate them. As Alvin Langdon observes, “Like is assimilated unto like. The mind approaches that which it continually contemplates, and kindred inevitably follow.”

Now, in another sense I believe that Lê achieves her aim, to suggest a universal history, a personal history, and a history of culture embodied in the landscape, suggestions that possibly sweep away landscapes of control.

As the Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donohue observed, “Even in landscapes of control you can be swept off your feet by sheer beauty.” Landscapes of control cannot stand before the power of beauty embodied in the landscape and in Lê’s photographs the memory of the landscape, its music, embeds itself in the photograph. Through the power of beauty, the Inner Landscape of Beauty (one that is metaphorical as much as physical, in the mind as much as it is externally verbalised), the photographs of An-My Lê subversively undermine the control of the military over the land: its occupation and colonisation of it, its wars to control it, and its very “uniform” presence in it. Look again at the photograph Mechanized Assault (2003-4, below) and now it is the distance of the photographer from the subject – the infinite sublime as I call it – that upends the punitive intentions of the military and overwhelms their puny vehicles. It’s an earth, spirit and mind thing.

In the viewers recognition of the beauty of this land(e)scape, we acknowledge our own virtue and assert our desire to be free. Free from restrictive control. Free from oppression. Free from war. The military, police “force” and government are and always will be, afraid of the infinite within us…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,540

 

Footnotes

  1. “Development of military doctrine is perhaps the more important of all capability development activities, because it determines how military forces are used in conflicts, the concepts and methods used by the command to employ appropriately military skilled, armed and equipped personnel in achievement of the tangible goals and objectives of the war, campaign, battle, engagement, and action.” (Wikipedia)

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Many thankx to the Amon Carter Museum of American Art for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP 'Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh' 18 September 1965

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP
Bodies of US paratroopers lie near a command post during the battle of An Ninh
18 September 1965

 

 

The paratroopers, of the 1st Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, were hit by heavy fire from guerrillas that began as soon as the first elements of the unit landed. The dead and wounded were later evacuated to An Khe, where the 101st was based. The battle was one of the first of the war between major units of US forces and the Vietcong.

 

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring exhibition considers the celebrated photographer’s nearly 25-year career exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs.

Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê was evacuated with her family by the U.S. military. She has spent decades considering the complexity of American history and conflict, from war reenactments to the removal of Confederate monuments. This timely exhibition explores politically-charged topics through Lê’s subtle, evocative images that avoid the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. Sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war display the artist’s technical strengths in the classical landscape tradition, which she uses to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

 

 

” …as a photographer, I’m interested in looking at and representing the real world, and interpreting it in ways that allow me to learn from it and enlighten the issues I am trying to understand. I feel entirely comfortable using photographs with simple titles and explanatory texts. And I feel comfortable with the fact that some people may interpret a photograph differently from others. My photographs are visually complicated and carry complex messages because of the way I pack the information into the frame and structure the picture. People need to spend time with the work in order to piece together all the information. But of course the reading is subjective. I like that. I like that it could be contradictory, that it could be full of surprises, that it could be confusing. I see a fragile construct between the objective and subjective.

Ultimately, the picture is there to incite someone to think about the issues at stake, rather than say explicitly how I myself feel about the American military. Some of my work could be understood as being supportive of the military. You could look at some pictures and think: wow, those young Americans are so heroic! Or you could see in the same image a reflection of American imperialism: look at the American guy standing there, trying to teach the locals how to do it the American way! There are so many possible interpretations. Sometimes the US military comes in and does help people. For example, after the earthquake in Haiti, the military was able to accomplish what no one else could. It was there with supplies in a matter of hours. But there’s a fine line between coming to help and invading, and it has to do with physical and economic presence and the ways in which Americans occupy the land. So the work is about those tensions.

I think it goes back to my own conflicted perceptions of the US military and what it did to Vietnam. At the end of the war, it was the Americans who could help us escape from the approach of communism. Everyone tried to scale the walls of the American Embassy, not the French Embassy. So it’s about all those conflicted things.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“Living through the Vietnam War as a child and immigrating to the United States as a teenager, An-My Lê’s life has been indelibly marked by international conflict. For over two decades, her work as a photographer has engaged the unseen facets within the theater of war. With her large-format camera in tow, she has immersed herself in the Appalachian forest with Vietnam War reenactors, and traveled aboard U.S. aircraft carriers around the globe. Lê identifies as a landscape photographer, a perspective that grounds her subtle, impactful images of American interventionism within a larger history of violence.”

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Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

 

 

Photographer An-My Lê: 2012 MacArthur Fellow | MacArthur Foundation | October 2012

Meet An-My Lê and learn about how she came to photography, her work with the U.S. military, and her 19th-century-style camera.

Photographer An-My Lê was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012. The Fellowship is a $500,000, no-strings-attached grant for individuals who have shown exceptional creativity in their work and the promise to do more.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: Landscapes of war | July 2018

Find out more about An-My Lê’s series Small Wars (1992-2002), and Lê’s experiences photographing Vietnam war reenactors.

Photographer An-My Lê, who grew up in Saigon during the Vietnam War, describes her series Small Wars (1999-2002) and 29 Palms (2003-2004). She discusses how contemporary landscape photography can be used to present more than just scenery; it can illuminate culture, architecture, and social and political issues that citizens are concerned with today.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain' at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

Installation view of the exhibition An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

In 1994, Lê returned to her home country for the first time since being evacuated as a teenager in 1975, arriving shortly after relations between the U.S. and Vietnam were normalised. She brought her camera with her, hoping to untangle the reality of her childhood memories from what she had seen over the years in movies and the news. She started the project in her mother’s birthplace, Hanoi, which she had never visited before, and returned to Vietnam three more times, spending about a month there on each trip. Using a large-format camera and shooting from an elevated perspective, Lê portrayed the landscape as a backdrop for human activity – particularly war and conflict – throughout history and into the present. Her series began with images of traditional, rural landscape she recalled from her childhood but eventually evolved into a photographic meditation on the fog of war and its tendency to scramble perceptions. Other images include scenes from urban and modern-day Vietnam unlike anything she had seen represented in the U.S. In this series Lê refined her working methods and began engaging with themes that remain cornerstones of her practice today.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Mekong Delta' 1994

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Mekong Delta
1994
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

This was the first photograph Lê made in Vietnam after almost twenty years away. It reflects her directorial style: Unlike a photojournalist, who strives to record events without intervening, Lê instructed the members of this farming family to stand still and look at the camera. The movement of their livestock and the surrounding foliage in the wind creates blur – perhaps a nod to the quickening pace of modern life in Vietnam.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City' 1995

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City
1995
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Thanh Hoa' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Thanh Hoa
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)
Between Chittumputty and Teramboor: Elephant Rock, End View, January-February 1858
1858

 

 

Linnaeus Tripe (British, 1822-1902)

Linnaeus Tripe (1822-1902) was a British pioneer of photography, best known for his photographs of India and Burma taken in the 1850s.

Linnaeus Tripe was born in Plymouth Dock (now Devonport), Devon, to Mary (1786-1842) and Cornelius (1785-1860). He was the ninth of twelve children. He joined the East India Company army in 1838, and in 1840, became a lieutenant based in the south of India. He returned to England in 1850, on a leave that was extended due to ill health until 1854. During this time he began to experiment with photography, and joined the Photographic Society of London in 1853. He returned to Bangalore, India, as a captain in June 1854. In December of that year he made his first photographs of India. In February of the following year he took part in the Madras Exhibition of Raw Products, Arts, and Manufactures of Southern India, displaying 68 photographs of previously unphotographed temples. The jury declared these photographs the “Best series of photographic views on paper.”

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 - c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879) 'Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi' 1880

 

Hippolyte Arnoux (French, (active c. 1860 – c. 1890) and Emile Gsell (French, 1838-1879)
Pagoda des Supplices, Hanoi
1880
From “The trip from Egypt to Indochina” (Voyage de l’ Egypte à l’ Indochine)

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, But Thap' 1996

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, But Thap
1996
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“In graduate school, I was nudged to draw from my personal experience. This was in 1992, before Bill Clinton lifted the economic embargo against Vietnam, so it was not easy to travel there. Having escaped Vietnam in 1975 without our family albums, I pored through the photography catalogs in the libraries at Yale for references to Vietnam. I was shocked to find devastating images of war, and also patronising ethnographic photographs taken by European photographers during the colonial period, but nothing else. When I was finally able to travel there a few years later, I made a series of black-and-white photographs, mostly landscapes, that were intended to fill in the gaps that existed between the war documentation and the ethnographic archive.”

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An-My Lê, 2021. Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen, The New York Review of Books

 

“For me, the landscape has always been the constant in my work. I work with scale as a way to give context to human endeavours, military endeavours, and the history of power. In the end, Vietnam has endured many battles and gone through so many changes. The Chinese invasion, the Japanese occupation, the colonialism of the French, the Indochina War, the Americans – the constancy was always the landscape. And people change, cultures change over time, but there is something about the land. Even as our world modernises, there is a certain consistency, a certain authenticity.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Sara Christoph. “An-My Lê with Sara Christoph,” on the Brooklyn Rail website February 2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

“When I first made the pictures in Vietnam, I was not ready to deal with the war. Being able to go back to Vietnam was a way to reconnect with a homeland, or with the idea of what a homeland is and with the idea of going home. When you live in exile, things like smells and memories and stories from childhood all take on such importance. So, this was an opportunity to reconnect with the real thing, and to be confronted with contemporary Vietnam. It’s not the way it was twenty years ago, or the way it’s described in folktales my grandmother and mother used to tell me, or even in stories from my mother’s own childhood in the North. So, I really looked for things that suggested a certain way of life – agrarian life – things that connect you to the land. Unfortunately, pictures don’t smell; but if I could do that, they would be about smells as well.”

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An-My Lê quoted in “Vietnam: An-My Lê,” on the Art21 website Nd [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Untitled, Son Tay' 1998

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Untitled, Son Tay
1998
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“People always say that it is so bizarre how these men reenact the Vietnam War, and go to so much trouble to do so! But then, you think about Steven Spielberg or even Kathryn Bigelow, and in a way, their work is a kind of reenactment pushed to the extreme. And no one has any issues with that! Just because it is a movie and there are millions of dollars involved, it is entertainment. And then you look to the military. All the training, practice drills, etc. They use the same language of reenactment. ‘Today, our scenario is…'”

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An-My Lê, 2015

Read the poem “A Brief History of Reënactment” by Vietnamese-American poet Hai-Dang Phan that was inspired by Lê’s series ‘Small Wars’.

 

“I feared for my safety on my first trip to Virginia, because I didn’t know the reenactors or their motivations. They called themselves ‘living historians.’ They grew up collecting badges and they knew everything about war histories, and this was a way for them to live out some of these fantasies. […]

It was so interesting to see the way who played what was economically replicated in real life. The kids who had more money would play the Americans because the American gear was more expensive, and they also tended to be less fit. They were always up on the hill sleeping on air mattresses and eating C-rations. And then us, the North Vietnamese Army or Viet Cong, we were down sleeping on the ground or in hammocks. We were always hiking up and ambushing them.”

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An-My Lê, 2019 conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen in the catalogue for “An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain.”

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Viet Cong Camp' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Viet Cong Camp
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Small Wars (1999-2002)

While researching the Vietnam War for her work, Lê discovered small groups of Vietnam War reenactors based in Virginia and North Carolina who were primarily civilians with little or no military experience. The organisers agreed to let her photograph if she also participated, and over the course of three summers she attended and photographed four or five reenactments, which became her series Small Wars. Even though Lê is from South Vietnam and had little firsthand knowledge of the North, she was often enlisted to play the role of North Vietnamese soldier or Viet Cong rebel. The other reenactors appreciated the “authenticity” she brought to the scenes, in part because it made their own experience feel more realistic. Lê’s participation became a way for her to understand personal histories and associations the reenactors brought with them to their performances, and it helped her better imagine what it might have been like for the North Vietnamese soldiers who fought in the war. Matching the reenactors’ commitment to authenticity, and underscoring her control of the scenes occurring in front of her camera, Lê consulted a military expert to restage certain moments and ensure that every detail, from the uniforms to the equipment, was as historically accurate as possible.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Stars and Stripes' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Stars and Stripes
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Sniper I' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Sniper I
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)/AP ''Life' magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia' 4 May 1970

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971) / AP
‘Life’ magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia
4 May 1970

 

 

Life magazine photographer Larry Burrows (far left) struggles through elephant grass and the rotor wash of an American evacuation helicopter as he helps GIs carry a wounded soldier on a stretcher from the jungle to the chopper in Mimot, Cambodia on 4 May 1970. The evacuation came during the US incursion into Cambodia. Burrows was killed on 10 February 1971, along with the photographer who took this picture, Henri Huet, and two other photojournalists – Kent Potter of UPI and Keisaburo Shimamoto of Newsweek – when their helicopter was shot down over Laos.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Ambush I' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Ambush I
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Rescue' 1999-2002

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Rescue
1999-2002
From the series Small Wars (1999-2002)
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

The Vietnam War reenactors Lê photographed were committed to creating “authentic” scenarios. This meant that every element, from their uniforms to their weapons and even their encampments, was meticulously researched and either purchased from approved sources or carefully fabricated. To further heighten the realism of their scenes, the reenactors gained access to Fort Story, a Joint Expeditionary Base in Virginia Beach that has been used as a training site for amphibious combat exercises since the end of World War II. A Vietnam-era jet that is grounded there became the site of a crash reenactment.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Colonel Greenwood' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Colonel Greenwood
2003-2004
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College, Chicago, Gift of Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“I came to understand a lot about life in the military through conversations with the marines. At that point, I had never quite understood why someone would join the military. I thought people join because they want to fight, because they want to shoot guns, because they want to combat evil forces. But I realised that some join for economic reasons: just to get a job. Some want to travel. Some see it as a way to get out of difficult circumstances: Some were orphans who grew up in tough foster homes and felt the military gave them an opportunity to escape. So I gradually came to understand the human component, the redemptive aspect of this complicated equation.”

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An-My Lê in Andrew Maerkle. “Fires on the Plain,” on the ART-iT website 28/07/2015 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021.

 

 

From War Reenactors to the Removal of Confederate Monuments, An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain Spotlights Politically Charged Work that Resonates Today

The Amon Carter Museum of American Art (the Carter) will present the first comprehensive survey of the work of Vietnamese-American photographer An-My Lê (b. 1960), on view April 18 through August 8, 2021. Featuring photographs from a selection of the artist’s five major bodies of work, the nationally touring An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain draws connections across Lê’s career and provides unprecedented insight into her subtle, evocative images that draw on the classical landscape tradition to explore the complexity of American history and conflict.

Celebrated photographer Lê has spent nearly 25 years exploring the edges of war and recording these landscapes of conflict in beautiful, classically composed photographs. Born in Saigon in the midst of the Vietnam War, Lê vividly remembers the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in a war zone. She and her family were eventually evacuated by the U.S. military in 1975. It would take another 20 years for Lê to return to her homeland, this time with a large-format camera in tow.

“We are proud to bring An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain to our North Texas community,” said Andrew J. Walker, Executive Director. “Lê’s photographs bring history into conversation with the present, confronting head-on, complicated questions that remain relevant today. It feels especially important that we are spotlighting her work during our anniversary year, as it draws on the traditions reflected in our historical photography collection and underlines our 60-year commitment to exhibiting the best American photographers at the Carter.”

Lê follows in the tradition of nineteenth-century photographers like Timothy O’Sullivan and Mathew Brady, whose images of the Civil War brought the realities of combat to everyday Americans. Crafting sweeping views that emphasise the size and breadth of the theatre of war, Lê captures the complexity of conflict and the full scope of military life, avoiding the sensationalism often seen in newspapers and movies. On Contested Terrain highlights the artist’s technical strengths, used to compose beautiful images that draw the viewer into deeper consideration of complex themes of history and power.

The exhibition presents selections from five of Lê’s major series:

 

Viêt Nam (1994-98)

Almost 20 years after her family was evacuated, Lê returned to Vietnam with her large-format camera. The resulting series is a meditation on her homeland, addressing both her memories of it and the country’s reality decades later. It depicts the landscape as a backdrop for human history, a theme Lê would return to again and again.

 

Small Wars (1999-2002)

Back in the United States, Lê photographed Vietnam War reenactors in North Carolina and Virginia, often participating as a North Vietnamese soldier or Viet Cong rebel. Working with the reenactors, many of whom had not fought in the war, to achieve “authenticity” whenever possible, Lê made images that explore the legacy and mythology of the Vietnam War for contemporary Americans.

 

29 Palms (2003-2004)

Unable to secure credentials to embed on the front lines of the Iraq War, Lê traveled to a California military base to photograph troops training in a landscape similar to the environment in which they would soon be deployed. In addition to the desert training exercises, Lê photographed the debriefings and downtime that filled the soldiers’ days.

 

Events Ashore (2005-2014)

This series, the artist’s first foray into colour photography, was created over nine years that Lê spent photographing the crews of U.S. naval vessels around the world. An extensive exploration of the global reach of the American military, Events Ashore includes scenes of everyday life on an aircraft carrier alongside diplomatic, humanitarian, military, and political activities.

 

Silent General (2015-ongoing)

In her current series, Lê grapples with the legacy of America’s Civil War and responds to the complexities of the current socio-political moment. Her poetic photographs of polarised landscapes confront issues of our time that are rooted in our history, from the fate of Confederate monuments to immigration debates around agricultural labourers.

 

“An-My Lê has spent decades investigating conflicted terrains, both physical and metaphorical” stated Kristen Gaylord, Assistant Curator of Photographs. “Her photographs consider questions that we are all thinking about now: What does it mean to be an American citizen? How does our country’s history shape our contemporary lives? What should be the role of the U.S. in the world? These questions are especially salient for the City of Fort Worth, which includes a major defence contractor, the first Joint Reserve Base in the country, and residents and refugees from around the world, including Vietnam, Somalia, Guatemala, and Afghanistan. The generosity and incisiveness of Lê’s vision are a model for how we can navigate these complexities together.”

An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is organised by Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Major support for this exhibition is provided by Lannan Foundation and the William Talbott Hillman Foundation. Additional support is generously provided by the Virginia Kaufman Fund, the Henry John Simonds Foundation, the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, Jennifer and Karl Salatka, and the Virginia S. Warner Foundation. Generous support for the exhibition catalogue has been provided by Marian Goodman Gallery. The exhibition debuted at Carnegie Museum of Art in March 2020 and is on view there through January 18, 2021. Following the presentation at the Carter, the exhibition will travel to the Milwaukee Art Museum in fall 2021. An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is included in the museum’s free admission. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue featuring many images never-before-published.

 

About An-My Lê

An-My Lê was born in Saigon in 1960. She and her family fled Vietnam in 1975, living for a short period of time in Paris, France, before settling in the United States as a political refugee. Lê received her BAS (1981) and MS (1985) degrees in biology from Stanford University and an MFA from Yale University in 1993. While Lê is represented in many major museum collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Dallas Museum of Art – An-My Lê: On Contested Terrain is the first survey of her work in an American museum. Currently, a professor of photography at Bard, Lê has received many awards, including the MacArthur Foundation Fellow (2012), the Tiffany Comfort Foundation Fellowship (2010), the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Award (2007), and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1997). Her work has been exhibited at museums and galleries across the world, including the Baltimore Museum of Art; Dia Beacon, Beacon, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; MoMA PS1, New York; and more, and her photography was featured in the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

Press release from the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Night Operations VII' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Night Operations VII
2003-2004
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print, 2018
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago
© An-My Lê

 

 

“Twentynine Palms was the first extended period of time I spent in an unpopulated landscape. That was where I first started to think about this idea of the sublime. You see this extraordinary, open land, and you understand how insignificant we are. The most powerful experience I had happened during a night exercise in the middle of the desert. It was completely dark. We were at least a two-hour drive from the camp, and then the whole sky lit up. It was the most extraordinary fireworks I have ever seen – 20 minutes of jets dropping bombs, howitzers firing, and tracers in the air. […] You could feel the tremors in your heart. It was a rush of life power, but at the same time, it was devastating. The kind of destruction that this exercise entails is a destruction that is all our own doing.”

.
An-My Lê, 2015

 

 

29 Palms (2003-04)

For her series 29 Palms, Lê turned to real soldiers acting out possible scenarios for a war that was still developing. Unable to secure credentials to embed on the front lines of the Iraq War (2003-2011), she instead sought access to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, also known as Twentynine Palms, outside Joshua Tree National Park in California – a base that was also used by Marines preparing for the Vietnam War decades earlier. Military command had determined that the arid, mountainous landscape was a good approximation to parts of Afghanistan and Iraq, where these soldiers would eventually de deployed. At Twentynine Palms, Lê focused her camera on field exercises, from special ops tactical training to sweeping views of tanks rolling across the desert. Some of the photographs are indistinguishable from images of actual war, while in others the artificiality of the scenario is obvious. She also captured moments that don’t appear in military promotional materials: troops whose attention is drifting during debriefings, huddled together to avoid the hot sun, and smoking and chatting during downtime.

At Twentynine Palms, entire buildings were given over to re-creations of Iraqi towns for security and stabilisation exercises, and cadets were conscripted to role play as Iraqi police. Three images in this gallery show the exercises as well as the facilities, which have been sprayed with anti-USA and pro-Saddam graffiti meant to impart a sense of realism. Simplistic phrases like “Good Saddam” and “Down USA” could never encapsulate an Iraqi’s complicated feelings about the war. Those sentiments, coupled with fake Arabic graffiti, leave a viewer wondering how well the military is preparing these troops who are about to be dropped into a completely foreign country on the other side of the globe.

 

 

 

An-My Lê: “29 Palms” | Art21 “Extended Play” | February 2011

“I just wanted to approach the idea of war in a more complicated and more challenging way” says artist An-My Lê, whose photographic series and film “29 Palms” (2003-04) explore the training exercises and desert landscape near Joshua Tree National Park as a staging ground for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An-My Lê’s photographs and films examine the impact, consequences, and representation of war, framing a tension between the natural landscape and its violent transformation into battlefields. Suspended between the formal traditions of documentary and staged photography, Lê’s work explores the disjunction between wars as historical events and the ubiquitous representation of war in contemporary entertainment, politics, and collective consciousness.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Security and Stabilization Operations, Iraqi Police' 2003-2004

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Security and Stabilization Operations, Iraqi Police
2003-2004
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print, 2018
Collection of the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College Chicago, Museum Purchase
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Security and Stabilization Operations, Graffiti' 2003-4

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Security and Stabilization Operations, Graffiti
2003-4
From the series 29 Palms (2003-2004)
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

MSGT Howard J. Farrell, US Marine Corps. 'T-54s, T-55s, Type 59s or Type 69s at Diwaniyah, Iraq' 16 April 2003

 

MSGT Howard J. Farrell, US Marine Corps
T-54s, T-55s, Type 59s or Type 69s at Diwaniyah, Iraq
16 April 2003
Public domain

 

 

The destroyed remains of Iraqi T-55 Main Battle Tanks (MBT) litter an Iraqi military complex West of Diwaniyah, near Al Qadisiyah, Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Visible on the picture are also two ARVs (the upper one is a Chinese-made Type 653 while the lower one is a Polish-made WZT-2). The tank in the bottom of the picture is a Type 69 as evidenced by the fender-mounted headlights.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Mechanized Assault' 2003-4

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Mechanized Assault
2003-4
Gelatin silver print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“The kind of work that I make is not the standard political work. It’s not agitprop. You would think, because I’ve seen so much devastation and lived through a war, that I should make something that’s outwardly antiwar. But I am not categorically against war. I was more interested in drawing people into my work, to think about the issues that envelop war – representations of war, landscape and terrain in war. When I’m working with the military, I still think of myself as a landscape photographer. My main goal is to try to photograph landscape in such a way that it suggests a universal history, a personal history, a history of culture.”

.
An-My Lê quoted in “War and Aesthetics: An-My Lê,” on the Art21 website Nd [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

“I love the way things are drawn in black and white but it was evident to me Events Ashore needed to be in color. It was at first a technical issue. I found the [black-and-white] palette restrictive. I was frustrated not being able to distinguish colder from warmer gray. [Black and white] is about a removal of the information provided by color, which is interesting in itself. Only the essential is retained, and this forces the imagination to go into overdrive to compensate. As I was exploring this huge global enterprise that is the U.S. Navy, I wanted to describe my experience in details and overwhelm the viewer with information. Bringing color back was crucial.”

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An-My Lê quoted in Jon Feinstein. “An-My Lê: The Landscape of Conflict,” on the Daylight website 10th February 2017 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

Events Ashore (2005-2014)

Lê’s time at Twentynine Palms let to friendships with military personnel that facilitated her next series, titled Events Ashore. She was invited to join a Marine Expeditionary Unit on an aircraft carrier and over the next nine years spent weeks at a time visiting twenty different countries aboard U.S. naval vessels travelling the world, from Antartica to Greenland. Events Ashore was Lê’s first foray into colour photography, made in part because her standard black-and-white film could not capture the subtle differences in the tonalities of ships, sky and water that filled the views from aircraft carriers, amphibious assault ships, and nuclear-powered submarines.

In this series intimate scenes of life aboard an aircraft carrier are interspersed with coverage of less-known military outreach efforts, like tutoring individuals for an English proficiency exam, and landmark geopolitical moments including the first U.S. naval exchange with Vietnam since the Vietnam War (1955-75). Lê attempts to fathom the full scope fo the navy’s activities around the world. The result is an extensive exploration of the environmental, financial, human, and political costs of military intervention.

 

 

“I [am] interested in many aspects of the military endeavour, from humanitarian missions in Africa and Asia and strategic trainings and engagements in the North Arabian Gulf and Indian Ocean to scientific missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. This work is as much about my perspective and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes. It is also about how the U.S. military is seen around the world, and how it represents our country. A polarising subject in popular imagination, the U.S. military has inspired fear, patriotism, debate, and suspicion. My goal has been to give a visual analog to that complex topic, to address issues of power and fragility. […] My intention is to stir up thought but not dictate a message. It is not a call to action so much as a call for perspective.”

.
An-My Lê, 2014 from the exhibition catalogue

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Earthquake Relief, Marine Corps Weapons Company Beach Landing Site, Haiti' 2010

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Earthquake Relief, Marine Corps Weapons Company Beach Landing Site, Haiti
2010
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Portrait Studio, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Portrait Studio, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy, Vietnam' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
US Naval Hospital Ship Mercy, Vietnam
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Lê has said that her ultimate subject in Events Ashore was scale, and the ocean is one of the only environments vast enough to dwarf the massive ships of the U.S. Navy. USNS Mercy is the lead ship of a class of hospital ships that are the third largest ship class in the navy, although in this image it seems small. Hospital ships carry only defensive weapons, and it is a war crime to attack them. Last spring, Mercy was sent to Los Angeles to provide relief to local hospitals dealing with COVID-19 cases. A train engineer deliberately ran a train off the tracks in an attempt to crash into it, saying he was suspicious of Mercy and did not believe “the ship is what they say it’s for.”

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Manning the rail, the U.S.S. Tortuga, Java Sea' 2010

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Manning the rail, the U.S.S. Tortuga, Java Sea
2010
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fresh Water Wash-Down of Super Structure, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fresh Water Wash-Down of Super Structure, USS Ronald Reagan, North Arabian Gulf
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Dakar, Senegal' 2009

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Dakar, Senegal
2009
From the series Events Ashore
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Ship Divers, USS New Hampshire, Arctic Seas' 2011

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Ship Divers, USS New Hampshire, Arctic Seas
2011
Inkjet print
Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris, and London
© An-My Lê

 

 

“[Walt] Whitman epitomises the acknowledgment that art offers the most inclusive and accurate method for addressing an experience. Whitman’s work resisted easy categorisation – it was neither journalism nor poetry. It allowed him to explore his curiosity about himself and the world in a way that always inspired complex responses. In a way, a photographer’s independence is what defines their identity as an artist. If your work doesn’t serve a story, document an event, or promote a product, then it must be art. But, in another sense, a photography artist is usually excited by the risk of their work not being considered art at all. When you decide to look at a polarising subject that plenty of non-artists are also working with – like a newsworthy event – then you are begging a question: ‘Are you doing anything better as an artist? Might you be doing something worse?'”

.
An-My Lê quoted in Tom Seymour. “An-My Lê: Landscape is not a narrow category – it is a source of surprise,” on The Art Newspaper website 13th August 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

Silent General (2015-ongoing)

Lê’s current project examines the contemporary state of affairs in the united States through the lens of history. It takes its title from Walt Whitman’s tribute to Ulysses S. Grant in Specimen Days (1882), an autobiographical account of Whitman’s time tending to wounded Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War (1861-65), another fractured moment in the countries history. Her arrangement of these photographs in groups, or what she calls “fragments,” is an homage to the literary structure of Specimen Days and a poetic way of sequencing the pictures.

Lê made her first photographs for the series in 2015, when the news was dominated by Donald Trump’s candidacy for president and public controversy over monuments commemorating the Confederacy. Since then, Lê has photographed politically polarised landscapes from Louisiana to New York, California to Texas, and down into Mexico. The images in Silent General address much-debated issues including citizenship, immigration, labour rights, land access, and racism, and often trace them back to their historical roots.

Wall text

 

 

 

Confederate Memorials in Texas

The photographs in this gallery address significant and contested issues facing our country, including the presence of Confederate monuments and markers throughout the United States.

Should these memorials remain, or should they be removed? While some believe that removing them erases history, others think that they were created to assert dominance over Black people.

There are over 150 Confederate memorials in Texas, most of which were created in two eras: first, the 1900 to the mid-1930s, as Jim Crow laws were passed and the Ku Klux Klan resurged; and second, the 1950s and 1960s, during the civil rights movement and coinciding with the centennial of the Civil War.

What, if anything, surprises you about Confederate monuments and markers in Texas?

Information on this map was gathered from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Texas Historical Commission, “The Texas Tribune,” and various private databases.

Wall text

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment I: General P. G. T. Beauregard Monument, New Orleans
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard was a well-known Confederate general who conveyed racist views about Black people before, during, and immediately after the Civil War. But he was adamantly against the federalist Reconstruction policies of the postwar period and became part of a group that advocated for Black suffrage and equal rights as a way of uniting Southern interests against them. A statue of him as a Confederate general was unveiled at the main entrance of New Orleans’ City Park in 1915. One hundred years later, it was one of four memorials related to the Confederacy that the New Orleans City Council voted to remove, although the removal took over a year and a half.

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VI: General Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments, Homeland Security Storage, New Orleans' 2017

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VI: General Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard Monuments, Homeland Security Storage, New Orleans
2017
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“We should start with the paradoxical ideas about photography and truth, journalism, and the issue that a photograph is an evidence of something. In film for example, if you talk about documentary films, or feature films, or fictional films, there is never any issue with which is which, but somehow for photography when people see a photograph, they think it is showing the truth. But we know that all photographs are fictional. This creates a kind of dichotomy, but I think artists such as myself like to take advantage of this misunderstanding. I do straddle that, but my pictures are not photojournalism. They do not attest to anything except perhaps of my interest in the world, and what I bring in terms of my baggage and personal biography to it.”

.
An-My Lê quoted in Cleo Roberts. “Complicated Truths: Interview with An-My Lê,” on the ArtAsiaPacific website Feb 24, 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

“Protest is a commitment to clarity, urgency, and spontaneity. The slogans and chants only work if they can be shared and invested with belief. I used to shy away from explicit language, political or otherwise, as a subject for my work because I feared I would neither document nor reveal anything that wasn’t already there or already stated. Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that the language of protest and resistance is not complete without a response… It invites and demands a response. So, with these photographs, I’ve tried to present protest and public address as intimate and integral gestures, within time and place, that hopefully push back at the more predictable images and commentaries we expect.”

.
An-My Lê quoted in Fi Churchman. “‘We Will Dance Again’: Photographer An-My Lê on Reconnecting with New York in Lockdown,” on the ArtReview website 23 September 2020 [Online] Cited 26/07/2021

 

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'Fragment VII: High School Students Protesting Gun Violence, Washington Square Park, New York' 2018

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
Fragment VII: High School Students Protesting Gun Violence, Washington Square Park, New York
2018
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'November 5, Sugar Cane Field, Houma, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
November 5, Sugar Cane Field, Houma, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960) 'November 10, Workers, Venice, Louisiana' 2016

 

An-My Lê (Vietnamese-American, b. 1960)
November 10, Workers, Venice, Louisiana
2016
Inkjet print
© An-My Lê

 

 

 

Monsen Photography Lecture: An-My Lê | March 2021

The annual Monsen Photography Lecture brings key makers and thinkers in photographic practice to the Henry Art Gallery. Named after Drs. Elaine & Joseph Monsen, the series is designed to further knowledge about and appreciation for the art of photography.

The Henry welcomed An-My Lê as the 2018 Monsen Photography Lecture speaker. Lê is renowned for creating images that raise questions about the representations and effects of war, and for leveraging photographic techniques to challenge understandings of what is fictional or historical. Her work “Small Wars (Ambush I)”, (1999-2002) was included in the Henry’s exhibition, “The Time. The Place: Contemporary Art from the Collection.”

 

 

Amon Carter Museum of American Art
3501 Camp Bowie Boulevard
Fort Worth, TX 76107-2695

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22
Mar
14

Exhibition: ‘Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs Of Ansel Adams’ at the Jundt Art Gallery, Gonzaga University, Spokane, WA

Exhibition dates: 4th January – 29th March 2014

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Birds on wire, evening, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Just a small celebration = this is the 900th posting on Art Blart since it started…

I sifted through all the photographs of the “war relocation center” (euphemism for concentration camp) named Manzanar that Ansel Adams took – over 220 photographs on the Library of Congress website – to bring you these, the best of the bunch. Adams wasn’t a particularly good documentary photographer and it was a struggle to come up with these images, but sprinkled in with the prosaic are some absolutely stunning landscape and still life images.

What is noteworthy however, is Adams moral stance towards the unlawful incarceration of Japanese Americans, something that went against everything American citizenship is supposed to stand for. In 1944 he published a book called Born Free and Equal which protests the treatment of these American citizens. Through photography and text he showed how they suffered under a great injustice – by portraying “Japanese American internees as loyal Americans going about their lives like regular citizens, not as dangerous aliens.”

As curator Robert Flynn Johnson notes, “Adams saved his harshest attack on their unjust imprisonment for the language of his book… In the text Adams struggled with the argument that the incarceration of these citizens was not just but justified by military necessity. However, he rejected that argument, clearly and forcefully articulating his opposition to the internment. The book was not well received. Adams was called a “Jap lover” and copies of the book were burned. To fully understand the “profiles in Courage” stand Ansel Adams took by publishing Born Free and Equal while the war was still raging, one must understand the emotionally volatile nature of those times in which it was published. Adams’s strong convictions are fully apparent when one reads his forceful words while viewing his beautiful photographic imagery…”

Can you imagine what courage it must have taken to publish a book in the middle of the Second World War – with all that was going on with America and the war in the Pacific against Japan – titled Born Free and Equal, a book that lays bare the hypocrisy of democracy as only contingent on those in power. This man and his supporters have my utmost admiration. In Australia it’s a pity – no, it’s shameful – that those elected people on both sides of major politics do not possess similar fortitude. The guts to stand up for justice and freedom against the evils of incarceration and oppression when they see it staring them in the face.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

PS. What is also interesting is how Adams laid out this work for exhibition in the camp itself. The size of the prints, how they are displayed both vertically and horizontally, and how they move up and down and are not hung ‘on the line’ – plus the artefacts they are also displayed with. Fascinating stuff.

.
These photographs were sourced from the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog of the Library of Congress. The online archive contains all of Ansel Adams photographs of Manzanar War Relocation Center to download in high resolution, with no known restrictions on publication. Please note: publication of these images in the posting does NOT mean that these images are in the exhibition.

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'C.T. Hibino, artist, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
C.T. Hibino, artist, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Frank Hirosama [i.e., Hirosawa] in laboratory, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Frank Hirosama [i.e., Hirosawa] in laboratory, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Foreword to Born Free and Equal

“Moved by the human story unfolding in the encirclement of desert and mountains, and by the wish to identify my photography in some creative way with the tragic momentum of the times, I came to Manzanar with my cameras in the fall of 1943. For many years, I have photographed the Sierra Nevada, striving to reveal by the clear statement of the lens those qualities of the natural scene which claim the emotional and spiritual response of the people. In these years of strain and sorrow, the grandeur, beauty, and quietness of the mountains are more important to us than ever before. I have tried to record the influence of the tremendous landscape of Inyo on the life and spirit of thousands of people living by force of circumstance in the Relocation Center of Manzanar. …

I believe that the acrid splendour of the desert, ringed with towering mountains, has strengthened the spirit of the people of Manzanar. I do not say all are conscious of this influence, but I am sure most have responded, in one way or another, to the resonances of their environment. From the harsh soil they have extracted fine crops; they have made gardens glow in the firebreaks and between the barracks. Out of the jostling, dusty confusion of the first bleak days in raw barracks they have modulated to a democratic internal society and a praiseworthy personal adjustment to conditions beyond their control. The huge vistas and the stern realities of sun and wind and space symbolise the immensity and opportunity of America – perhaps a vital reassurance following the experience of enforced exodus. …

I trust the content and message of this book will suggest that the broad concepts of American citizenship, and of liberal, democratic life the world over, must be protected in the prosecution of the war, and sustained in the building of the peace to come.”

Ansel Adams, Foreword to Born Free and Equal, 1944

 

Library of Congress text

Well-known fine art and landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, took on several war-related assignments. When offering the Manzanar photos to the Library in 1965, Adams wrote in an accompanying letter, “The purpose of my work was to show how these people, suffering under a great injustice … had overcome the sense of defeat and dispair [sic] by building for themselves a vital community in an arid (but magnificent) environment.”

Summary: Photographs document the lives of Japanese Americans interned during World War II at the Manzanar Relocation Center, in Inyo County, California. There are numerous close-up and occupational portraits of individuals, including Roy Takeno, editor of the Manzanar Free Press, and photographer Tōyō Miyatake. Group portraits include families, women and children. Other photographs show people posed in their living quarters and engaged in indoor daily life such as shopping, religious services, health care, and education; more informal views portray outdoor agricultural scenes and sports and leisure activities. Landscape views feature the background mountains and desert as well as camp facilities and buildings.

Text from the Library of Congress website

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, spring, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, spring, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Benji Iguchi driving tractor in field, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Benji Iguchi driving tractor in field, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“… that all Japanese, whether citizens or not, be placed in inland concentration camps. As justification for this, I submit that if an American born Japanese, who is a citizen, is really patriotic and wishes to make his contribution to the safety and welfare of this country, right here is his opportunity to do so, namely, by permitting himself to be placed in a concentration camp, he would be making his sacrifice. … Millions of other native-born citizens are willing to lay down their lives, which is a far greater sacrifice, of course, than being placed in a concentration camp.”

.
Secretary of War Henry Stinson, January 16, 1942

 

 

The Jundt Art Museum will display Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams in the Jundt Galleries Jan. 4 through March 29. The exhibition features 50 of the renowned photographer’s images of the Japanese-American relocation camp in Manzanar, Calif. during World War II. The photographs are included in the controversial book Born Free and Equal, which protests the treatment of these American citizens. The book was published in 1944 while the war was in progress. Also included in the exhibition are various photographs, documents and other works of art that further contextualise the images. Robert Flynn Johnson, curator emeritus for the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, curated the exhibition.

Born in San Francisco, Adams was a visionary in nature photography and wilderness preservation. He has become an environmental folk hero for his work in conservation as well as a symbol of the American West, particularly for his photographs of Yosemite National Park. Adams’ Manzanar work is a departure from his signature style of landscape photography. Most of the Manzanar photographs are portraits, views of daily life, agricultural scenes, and sports and leisure activities. The Ansel Adams photographs taken between 1943-1944 are prints made from the original negatives in the Library of Congress. They were previously exhibited in the exhibition, Born Free and Equal: An Exhibition of Ansel Adams Photographs, organised by the Fresno Metropolitan Museum of Art, History and Science in 1984.

Robert Flynn Johnson, Curator Emeritus, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, in his essay for the exhibition writes, “This exhibition recounts one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States, one that the distinguished author John hersey referred to as ‘a mistake of terrifyingly horrible proportions.’ It is a story of ignorance and prejudice, but also a story of perseverance and nobility. What happened should never be forgotten so that it should never happen again.” Johnson continues, “This is not only an art exhibition, a history lesson, or a study in race relations; it is all three. My hope is that it educates us about an unfortunate moment in our country’s history that must be better understood. It also should serve as a warning as to what can occur when emotion and fear overwhelm clarity and courage.”

Also included in the exhibition is a first edition copy of Adams’s 1944 book, Born Free and Equal; a vintage gelatin silver print by Adams titled A Photograph of Yosemite, c. 1938; three reproductions of Dorothea Lange photographing Japanese-Americans being evacuated; a watercolour painting of a camp by an internee; an original 1942 poster of the Civilian Exclusion Order that announced that Japanese-Americans were to be rounded up for imprisonment; seven original magazine covers and a poster that documents the virulent anti-Japanese attitudes present at the time; a watercolour by Henry Minakata of one of the Relocation Camps; and three original drawings by the famous artist Chiura Obata, who was imprisoned in the Topaz Camp. The exhibition, which will tour museums in the United States over the next few years, was organised by Photographic Traveling Exhibitions of Los Angeles.”

Press release from the Jundt Art Gallery website

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar from guard tower, summer heat, view SW, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar from guard tower, summer heat, view SW, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar from Guard Tower, view west (Sierra Nevada in background), Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

 

The first morning in Manzanar when I woke up and saw what Manzanar looked like, I just cried. And then I saw the high Sierra mountain, just like my native country’s mountain, and I just cried, that’s all.” Haruko Niwa, interned at Manzanar from 1942 until 1945.

Ten war relocation centres were built in remote deserts, plains, and swamps of seven states; Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Manzanar, located in the Owens Valley of California between the Sierra Nevada on the west and the Inyo mountains on the east, was typical in many ways of the 10 camps. About two-thirds of all Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. The remainder were aliens, many of whom had lived in the United States for decades, but who, by law, were denied citizenship.

The first Japanese Americans to arrive at Manzanar, in March 1942, were men and women who volunteered to help build the camp. On June 1 the War Relocation Authority (WRA) took over operation of Manzanar from the U.S. Army. The 500-acre housing section was surrounded by barbed wire and eight guard towers with searchlights and patrolled by military police. Outside the fence, military police housing, a reservoir, a sewage treatment plant, and agricultural fields occupied the remaining 5,500 acres. By September 1942 more than 10,000 Japanese Americans were crowded into 504 barracks organised into 36 blocks. There was little or no privacy in the barracks – and not much outside. The 200 to 400 people living in each block, consisting of 14 barracks each divided into four rooms, shared men’s and women’s toilets and showers, a laundry room, and a mess hall. Any combination of eight individuals was allotted a 20-by-25-foot room. An oil stove, a single hanging light bulb, cots, blankets, and mattresses filled with straw were the only furnishings provided.

Coming from Los Angeles and other communities in California and Washington, Manzanar’s internees were unaccustomed to the harsh desert environment. Summer temperatures soared as high as 110ºF. In winter, temperatures frequently plunged below freezing. Throughout the year strong winds swept through the valley, often blanketing the camp with dust and sand. Internees covered knotholes in the floors with tin can lids, but dust continued to blow in between the floorboards until linoleum was installed in late 1942…

Two thirds of the Japanese Americans interned at Manzanar were under the age of 18. 541 babies were born at Manzanar. A total of 11,070 Japanese Americans were processed through Manzanar. From a peak of 10,046 in September 1942, the population dwindled to 6,000 by 1944. The last few hundred internees left in November 1945, three months after the war ended. Many of them had spent three-and-a-half years at Manzanar.

Anon. “Japanese Americans at Manzanar,” on the Manzanar National Historic Site (U. S. National Park Service) website [Online] Cited 08/03/2014

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, clouds, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, clouds, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar street scene, winter, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar street scene, winter, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
View south from Manzanar to Alabama Hills, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
View SW over Manzanar, dust storm, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

 

This exhibition recounts one of the darkest moments in the history of the United States, one that the distinguished author John Hersey referred to as “a mistake of terrifyingly horrible proportions.”1 It is a story of ignorance and prejudice, but it is also a story of perseverance and nobility. What happened should never be forgotten so that it should never happen again.

 

Background

In the aftermath of the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor and the subsequent declaration of war by the United States, a wave of fear and paranoia swept the western United States and the Hawaiian Islands. Anxiety over possible invasion by Japanese forces or sabotage by fifth columnist Japanese and Japanese Americans living amongst the general American population overrode common sense in Government circles. Despite the protestations of Attorney General Francis Biddle, Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, and even F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the most unfortunate act of an otherwise admirable presidency, allowed public opinion and biased, racist attitudes of elements within the U.S. Army to induce him into issuing on February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066: the forced evacuation of persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This evacuation was done despite the fact that the F.B.I. had, within three days of Pearl Harbor, rounded up and arrested 857 Germans, 147 Italians, and 1,291 Japanese (367 in Hawaii and 924 on the mainland) for subversive activities. The government did not inter Germans, Italians, nor, with few exceptions, Japanese residing in Hawaii. Instead they rounded up Japanese and Japanese Americans residing in the western United States. In the end, these individuals were interred in ten camps spread over underpopulated areas of the West and in Arkansas in the Midwest…

The act of rounding up civilians and imprisoning them in camps had occurred in earlier centuries. The term “concentration camp” was first used to describe the actions of the British against the Boers during the Second Boer War (1899-1902), but today it is indistinguishable from the horrors of the extermination camps perpetrated by the Nazis against Jews, Russians, and other victims of the Reich in World War II. American authorities euphemistically labeled the Japanese internments as “war relocation centers,” but given the harsh conditions Japanese Americans suffered, a more appropriate term might be war relocation “camps.”

Mine Okubo describes the conditions: “The camps represented a prison: no freedom, no privacy, no America. Internment camps were also guarded by U.S. military personnel and had a barbed wire perimeter.”2

 

Manzanar

The brilliant social activist photographer Dorothea Lange (1895-1965) was hired by the U.S. government in the spring of 1942 to document this forced relocation. Her assignment included the camp at Manzanar, located in the remote Owens Valley in the northern reaches of Death Valley, California. However, when her photographs were submitted, they were viewed with alarm for showing the government in a bad light; the decision was made to impound (censor) her images until the end of the war.

It was only in 1943 that Ralph Merritt, the enlightened second director at Manzanar, invited his old friend Ansel Adams to come and photograph there. By that time, the internees had settled into their lives there coping as best they could. In 1942 a confrontation with camp guards had led to shots being fired, resulting in the deaths of two internees and the wounding of nine. There were no further incidents. Some historians have criticised Adams’s photographs, comparing them to the more politicised imagery of Lange. Linda Gordon wrote,

“Ansel Adams photographed at Manzanar a year after Lange did, producing work that, by contrast, reveals much about Lange’s perspective. He tried to walk a cramped line, opposing anti-Asian racism, but avoiding identification with the opposition to the internment. Adams’s pictures, primarily portraits – surprisingly for a landscape photographer – emphasised the internees’ stoic, polite, even cheerful making the best of it. His subjects were almost exclusively happy, smiling. His goal was to establish the internees as unthreatening, Americanised, open – scrutable rather than inscrutable. By making mainly individual portraits, he masked collective racial discrimination. The resultant hiding of the internment’s violation of human rights was not an unintended consequence of this goal, but an expression of Adams’s patriotism.”3

There is no question that Lange was the stronger documentary photographer. However, Adams was working out of his comfort zone as a landscape photographer and his point was not to use his images to indict the authorities. Instead, he wished to portray the Japanese American internees as loyal Americans going about their lives like regular citizens, not as dangerous aliens. Adams saved his harshest attack on their unjust imprisonment for the language of his book, Born Free and Equal, published the following year, 1944.

In the text Adams struggled with the argument that the incarceration of these citizens was not just but justified by military necessity. However, he rejected that argument, clearly and forcefully articulating his opposition to the internment. The book was not well received. Adams was called a “Jap lover” and copies of the book were burned. To fully understand the “profiles in Courage” stand Ansel Adams took by publishing Born Free and Equal while the war was still raging, one must understand the emotionally volatile nature of those times in which it was published. Adams’s strong convictions are fully apparent when one reads his forceful words while viewing his beautiful photographic imagery…

 

Conclusion

This is not only an art exhibition, a history lesson, or a study in race relations; it is all three. My hope is that it educates us about an unfortunate moment in our country’s history that must be better understood and should serve as a warning against allowing emotion, prejudice and fear to overwhelm clarity and courage. Harold L. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, in his 1944 foreword to Born Free and Equal sums up the essence of this human drama,

“It has long been my belief that the greatness of America has arisen in large part out of the diversity of her peoples. Before the war, peoples of Japanese ancestry were a small but valuable element in our population. Their record of law-abiding, industrious citizenship was surpassed by no other group. Their contributions to the arts, agriculture, and science were indisputable evidence that the majority of them believed in America and were growing with America.

Then war came with the nation of their parental origin. The ensuing two and a half years have brought heartaches to many in our population. Among the causalities of war has been America’s Japanese minority. It is my hope that the wounds which it has received in the great uprooting will heal. It is my prayer that other Americans will fully realise that to condone the whittling away of the rights of any one minority group is to pave the way for us all to lose the guarantees of the Constitution.”4

Robert Flynn Johnson
Curator Emeritus
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

 

  1. John Hersey, “A Mistake of Terrifically Horrible proportions,” in Manzanar, by John Armor and Peter Wright (New York Times Books, 1988)
  2. Sara Ann McGill, “Internment of Japanese Americans,” accessed May 3, 2010. No longer available online
  3. Linda Gordon and Gary Y. Okihiro, ed., Impounded: Dorothea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment (New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 2006), 34
  4. Ansel Adams, Born Free and Equal: The Story of Loyal Japanese-Americans (New York: U.S. Camera, 1944), 7

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top - Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Pictures and mementoes on phonograph top – Yonemitsu home, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Roy Takeno's desk, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Roy Takeno’s desk, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Manzanar museum (Ansel Adams exhibit), Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Manzanar museum (Ansel Adams exhibit), Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984) 'Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center' 1943

 

Ansel Adams (American, 1902-1984)
Line crew at work in Manzanar, Manzanar Relocation Center
1943
Silver gelatin print

 

 

Jundt Art Gallery
502 East Boone Avenue
Spokane, WA 99258-0001
This is the main address for Gonzaga University

Opening hours:
Monday – Saturday 10am – 4pm

Jundt Art Gallery website

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31
Oct
13

Photographs: ‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 2

October 2013

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Large pipe elbows for the Army are formed at Tube Turns, Inc.,' 1941

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Large pipe elbows for the Army are formed at Tube Turns, Inc., by heating lengths of pipe with gas flames and forcing them around a die, in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1941
1941
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

 

Kodachrome sheets 1941-1943

This is the second of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-1943.

This man was a true master of his craft. Look at the lighting in the first three photographs. Palmer really understood the theatre of the scene he was photographing. The first photograph, an inanimate object picturing an elemental force, brings me to tears when looking at it. Too sentimental, too emotional? I don’t think so… just an amazing experience from a magnificent photograph.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

 

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Casting a billet from an electric furnace, Chase Brass and Copper Co., Euclid, Ohio' February 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Casting a billet from an electric furnace, Chase Brass and Copper Co., Euclid, Ohio. Modern electric furnaces have helped considerably in speeding the production of brass and other copper alloys for national defense. Here the molten metal is poured or cast from the tilted furnace into a mold to form a billet. The billet later is worked into rods, tubes, wires or special shapes for a variety of uses
February 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Crane operator at Tennessee Valley Authority's Douglas Dam' June 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Crane operator at Tennessee Valley Authority’s Douglas Dam
June 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'An employee in the drill-press section of North American's huge machine shop runs mounting holes in a large dural casting, in Inglewood, California, in October of 1942' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
An employee in the drill-press section of North American’s huge machine shop runs mounting holes in a large dural casting, in Inglewood, California, in October of 1942
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'North American Aviation drill operator in the control surface department assembling horizontal stabilizer section of an airplane. Inglewood, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
North American Aviation drill operator in the control surface department assembling horizontal stabilizer section of an airplane. Inglewood, California
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Here's our mission. A combat crew receives final instructions just before taking off in a mighty YB-17 bomber from a bombardment squadron base at the field, in Langley Field, Virginia, in May of 1942' May 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Here’s our mission. A combat crew receives final instructions just before taking off in a mighty YB-17 bomber from a bombardment squadron base at the field, in Langley Field, Virginia, in May of 1942
May 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it' May 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Hitler would like this man to go home and forget about the war. A good American non-com at the side machine gun of a huge YB-17 bomber is a man who knows his business and works hard at it
May 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Young woman employee of North American Aviation working over the landing gear mechanism of a P-51 fighter plane. Inglewood, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Young woman employee of North American Aviation working over the landing gear mechanism of a P-51 fighter plane. Inglewood, California. 
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Working on the horizontal stabilizer of a "Vengeance" dive bomber at the Consolidated-Vultee plant in Nashville' February 1943

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Working on the horizontal stabilizer of a “Vengeance” dive bomber at the Consolidated-Vultee plant in Nashville
February 1943
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Testing electric wiring at Douglas Aircraft Company. Long Beach, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Testing electric wiring at Douglas Aircraft Company. Long Beach, California
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Truck driver at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Douglas Dam' June 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Truck driver at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Douglas Dam
June 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Experimental staff at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, Calif. , observing wind tunnel tests on a model of the B-25 ("Billy Mitchell") bomber' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Experimental staff at the North American Aviation plant in Inglewood, Calif., observing wind tunnel tests on a model of the B-25 (“Billy Mitchell”) bomber
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane is prepared for wind tunnel tests in the plant of the North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
An experimental scale model of the B-25 plane is prepared for wind tunnel tests in the plant of the North American Aviation, Inc., Inglewood, California. The model maker holds an exact miniature reproduction of the type of bomb the plane will carry
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Parris Island S.C., barrage balloon' May 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Parris Island S.C., barrage balloon
May 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods, at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Women are trained as engine mechanics in thorough Douglas training methods, at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Annette del Sur publicizes a salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company, in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Annette del Sur publicizes a salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company, in Long Beach, California, in October of 1942
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company. Long Beach, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Annette del Sur publicizing salvage campaign in yard of Douglas Aircraft Company. Long Beach, California
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Engine installers at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Engine installers at Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

 

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16
Oct
13

Photographs: ‘The War at Home: Farm Security Administration / Office of War Information Color Photographs’ by Alfred Palmer Part 1

October 2013

 

Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California' c. 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California
c. 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Kodachrome sheets 1941-1943

This is the first of a two-part posting on the large format Kodachrome colour transparency photographs of the American photographer Alfred Palmer taken during 1941-1943. I absolutely adore these photographs. While today they might seem overly posed and almost surreal in their depiction of men and women at work in the factories of the home front during the Second World War, these are epic canvases of colour, light and form. While Eugène Atget’s photographs may well have been “Documents for artists”, I believe that Alfred Palmer’s photographs can be seen as “Documents for photographers.” They teach later generations the value of craft, of an understanding of the technical aspects of the medium (both camera and film) coupled with the imaginative use and capture of light, colour and pose. Look at the photograph Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach (October 1942, below) – have you ever seen such use of colour in the 1940s: red socks, blue slacks, beige shirt, green lunch box and silver background. Like one of those old films in Technicolor, just so beautiful!

While these photographs are masterpieces of formalism, lighting, tone, texture and control, they also transcend their subject matter. Observe the image P-51 “Mustang” fighter plane in construction, at North American Aviation, Inc., in Los Angeles, California (c. 1942, above) for example, to comprehend how this master photographer saw this image, how he understood the potential of the subject matter to shine (on so many levels) and then was able to capture it and let it speak for itself. Considering the conditions under which he would have been working (in cramped factories) and the fact that he would have had to light everything himself, Palmer has recorded a remarkable body of work. All captured on the wonderful Kodachrome film in large format 4″ x 5″ sheets. What a loss to photography this film is.

These photographs deserve to be more widely known and appreciated than they are at present. Love em, love em, love them!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Library of Congress for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. No known copyright restrictions on any of the photographs.

 

 

Alfred Palmer. 'A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, plant' Photo published in 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
A view of the B-25 final assembly line at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, plant
Photo published in 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas.' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
B-25 bomber plane at North American Aviation being hauled along an outdoor assembly line. Kansas City, Kansas

October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.' July 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Servicing an A-20 bomber, Langley Field, Va.
July 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'P-51 "Mustang" fighter in flight' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
P-51 “Mustang” fighter in flight, Inglewood, California, The Mustang, built by North American Aviation, Incorporated, is the only American-built fighter used by the Royal Air Force of Great Britain
October, 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942' July 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Sunset silhouette of a flying fortress, at Langley Field, Virginia, in July, 1942
July 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942' June 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Light tank going through water obstacle. Fort Knox, June 1942
June 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942' June, 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Tank crew standing in front of M-4 tank, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, June, 1942
June, 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Army tank driver at Fort Knox , Kentucky' June 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Army tank driver at Fort Knox, Kentucky
June 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant "Mike" Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Lieutenant “Mike” Hunter, Army pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif.
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/LOC

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Lieutenant 'Mike' Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Lieutenant ‘Mike’ Hunter, Army test pilot assigned to Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, California
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

 

Alfred T. Palmer 1906-1993

Born in San Jose, California, Palmer was an avid photographer from an early age, meeting the young Ansel Adams in Yosemite in 1916. He was hired on as a cadet on the Dollar Lines President Monroe. He was 19 years old. This would be the first of his 23 trips around the world in the next 32 years. Palmer became the official photographer and worked aboard Dollar Line, Matson and Moore-McCormack Lines ships around the world shooting 100s of images with his Graflex camera. He would trade with other crew members for daytime shifts so he could go ashore and photograph everything he saw.

In 1938, he packed cameras and darkroom equipment into his car and set out across America documenting everything that captured his interest from cows and pigs and corn to towns, cities, people and industry. He would develop the film in the bathrooms of the tourist homes and auto courts every night. He sold the negatives for a dollar each for use in educational books. He made contact prints of each one which are included in his vast portfolio of work.

In 1939 when Hitler attacked Poland the United States ranked twentieth as a world military power. In June of 1940 President Roosevelt and Congress passed a bill for the building of a major two ocean navy. At that time Roosevelt formed the National Defense Advisory Commission of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and Palmer was chosen to head the photography department. To rally and inform citizens about the use of their tax dollars and resources, Palmer was sent out to photograph Americans building what Roosevelt termed the Arsenal of Democracy. Aware of the power of mass media, the OEM wanted to provide images which would vividly convey their story in high contrast photos for magazines and newspapers. At the OEM, Palmer’s boss, Robert Horton, would brainstorm assignments, sending him into restricted industrial and military facilities. Once in the field, Palmer worked independently. He developed a style of quickly seeing the picture and catching the essence. Through this style he was able to convey the gritty texture and geometry of industrial form combined with the strong emotion of men and women attentive to their work. His dramatic tonal ranges and sharp focus approach reflect the early influence of his mentor, Ansel Adams.

In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Palmer became official photographer for the newly formed Office of War Information (OWI). He also served as technical expert with final say on photographic equipment and processes. Now his images had to illustrate all aspects of the war effort, from industrial workers to conservation of resources and citizen participation. Palmer’s emphasis was on the typical American hard at work on the home front. His photographs were also an integral part of the “women power” campaign to change the public attitude toward women joining the work force. He showed women as patriotic, glamorous and capable, working on fighter planes as well as assembly lines. Palmer also focused on the dedication and dignity of the black labor force and worked with the chief of the News Bureau Negro Press.

In 1942, the Farm Security Administration (FSA) was added as a joint agency with the OWI. Palmer and Roy Stryker shared creativity and conflict during those years in the dissident approaches to portraying America to herself. While Stryker’s unit showed a national self scrutiny of post depression America, Palmer sought to emphasise a moral building role through his photography. Palmer’s deep belief in promoting the spiritual strength of people permeates his entire career as photographer and filmmaker.

During his years with OWI Palmer worked with a number of significant photographers such as Esther Bubbly, Howard Leiberman, Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang and Edward Steichen. Palmer’s artistic style was recognised by Steichen, who featured his photographs in the historic traveling exhibit “Road to Victory”, which opened at the Museum of Modern Art in 1942. Alfred Palmer generated thousands of photographs that were widely published in the major magazines and newspapers in the United States and abroad. His works were praised for their exceptional symbolic power and striking use of intense contrasts conveying the courage and determination that Roosevelt sought to arouse in the nation. Much of the vast collection of Palmer’s photographs (including rare colour transparencies) is housed in the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Alfred Palmer passed away in 1993, leaving a legacy of life work that is unique in its very essence. This extensive collection of photographs and 16mm colour film encompassing five decades of world cultures, World War II history and America’s maritime heritage becomes increasingly significant as a testimony to our humanity.

Text from the Alfred T. Palmer website [Online] Cited 13/10/2013 no longer available online

 

kodachrome-WEB

 

A Kodachrome sheet film box that held 2 x half a dozen sheets of film in 2 sheet packages, from around the time Alfred Palmer would have been using the same film. Notice the ISO/ASA rating of 10. Expiry date of October 1944.

 

Alfred Palmer. 'American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California , give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
American mothers and sisters, like these women at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California, give important help in producing dependable planes for their men at the front
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation's Inglewood, California, factory' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Assembling switchboxes on the firewalls of B-25 bombers at North American Aviation’s Inglewood, California, factory
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach , California' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Workers installing fixtures and assemblies in the tail section of a B-17F bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant in Long Beach, California
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California' June 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Engine inspector for North American Aviation at Long Beach, California
June 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California' June 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Punching rivet holes in a frame member for a B-25 bomber at North American Aviation. Inglewood, California 
June 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation' 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Inglewood, California. Riveting team working on the cockpit shell of a C-47 heavy transport at North American Aviation.
“The versatile C-47 performs many important tasks for the Army. It ferries men and cargo across the oceans and mountains, tows gliders and brings paratroopers and their equipment to scenes of action.”
1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Noontime rest for an assembly worker at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company. Nacelle parts for a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
Alfred Palmer/OWI

 

Alfred Palmer. 'Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background' October 1942

 

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)
Two assembly line workers at the Long Beach, Calif., plant of Douglas Aircraft Company enjoy a well-earned lunch period, Long Beach, Calif. Nacelle parts of a heavy bomber form the background
October 1942
4 x 5 Kodachrome transparency
LOC

 

 

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30
Aug
13

Exhibition: ‘Photography and the American Civil War’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Exhibition dates: 2nd April – 2nd September 2013

BE WARNED, LIKE “INCIDENTS OF WAR”, THIS POSTING IS DISTURBING AND NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED!

 

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia' 1863 (detail)

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia (detail)
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

“It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ … Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

“Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.”

.
Alexander Gardner

 

“In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow-countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The Government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath registered in heaven to destroy the Government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect, and defend it’.”

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

“The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise – with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.”

.
American President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

 

 

There are some very poignant and disturbing photographs in this posting. The youth of some of the combatants (Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital). The sheer brutality and pointlessness of war. Bloated and twisted bodies, inflated like balloons. Starved and beaten human beings.

And yet, you look at the photograph “Slave Pen” – the office of those ‘Dealers in Slaves’ now guarded by Union soldiers (above) – or the photograph of Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans and the photograph of the anonymous African American soldier fighting for the Union cause directly below and you understand just one of the reasons that this was such a bloody conflict: it was about the right of all men to be free, to throw off the bonds of servitude.

To be replaced all these years later by another corrupted power – the power of government, the power of government to surveil its people at any and all times. The power of religion, money, the military and the gun.

Praise be the land of the free.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882) 'Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond' 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (American, born Scotland, 1821-1882)
Ruins of Gallego Flour Mills, Richmond
1865
Albumen silver prints from glass negatives
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1933
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

In 1861, at the outset of the Civil War, the Confederate government moved its capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, to be closer to the front and to protect Richmond’s ironworks and flour mills. On April 2, 1865, as the Union army advanced on Richmond, General Robert E. Lee gave the orders to evacuate the city. A massive fire broke out the following day, the result of a Confederate attempt to destroy anything that could be of use to the invading Union army. In addition to consuming twenty square blocks, including nearly every building in Richmond’s commercial district, it destroyed the massive Gallego Flour Mills, situated on the James River and seen here. Alexander Gardner, Mathew B. Brady’s former gallery manager, then his rival, made numerous photographs of the “Burnt District” as well as this dramatic panorama from two glass negatives. The charred remains have become over time an iconic image of the fall of the Confederacy and the utter devastation of war.

 

A-display-of-three-photographs-of-American-Civil-War-soldiers-in-the-exhibition-WEB

 

A display of three photographs of American Civil War soldiers in the exhibition, “Photography and the American Civil War” April 1, 2013 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The three albumen silver prints are all by Gayford & Speidel, “Private Christopher Anderson, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865” (L), “Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (C) and “Private Gid White, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry, January-May 1865”, (R).
AFP PHOTO/Stan HONDA

 

Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861

 

Unknown artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

This melancholy young volunteer was a member of the Eleventh New York Infantry, an early war regiment organised in New York City in May 1861. Primarily composed of volunteers from the city’s many fire companies, the men were also known as the First Fire Zouaves. Along with other volunteer units, the Eleventh helped capture Alexandria, Virginia on May 24, 1861, just a day after the state formally seceded from the Union.

 

Unknown Artist. 'Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves)' May-June 1861 (detail)

 

Unknown artist
Union Private, 11th New York Infantry (Also Known as the 1st Fire Zouaves) (detail)
May-June 1861
One-sixth plate ambrotype
Michael J. McAfee Collection
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

4.-A-Harvest-of-Death-WEB

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1863
Printer: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Publisher: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
17.8 × 22.5cm (7 × 8 7/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

This photograph of the rotting dead awaiting burial after the Battle of Gettysburg is perhaps the best-known Civil War landscape. It was published in Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1866), the nation’s first anthology of photographs. The Sketch Book features ten photographic plates of Gettysburg – eight by Timothy H. O’Sullivan, who served as a field operator for Alexander Gardner, and two by Gardner himself. The extended caption that accompanies this photograph is among Gardner’s most poetic: “It was, indeed, a ‘harvest of death.’ … Such a picture conveys a useful moral: It shows the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry. Here are the dreadful details! Let them aid in preventing such another calamity falling upon the nation.”

 

Timothy H. O'Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882) Alexander Gardner, printer. 'Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863' 1863

 

Timothy H. O’Sullivan (American, born Ireland, 1840-1882)
Alexander Gardner, printer
Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Gettysburg, July 1863
1863
Plate 37 in Volume 1 of Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

This photograph of the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg appears in the two-volume opus Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of the War (1865-66). Gardner’s publication is egalitarian. Offended by Brady’s habit of obscuring the names of his field operators behind the deceptive credit “Brady,” Gardner specifically identified each of the eleven photographers in the publication; forty-four of the one hundred photographs are credited to Timothy O’Sullivan. Gardner titled the plate Field Where General Reynolds Fell, Battlefield of Gettysburg. But the photograph, its commemorative title notwithstanding, relates a far more common story: six Union soldiers lie dead, face up, stomachs bloated, their pockets picked and boots stolen. As Gardner described the previous plate, aptly titled The Harvest of Death, this photograph conveys “the blank horror and reality of war, in opposition to its pageantry.”

 

Unknown Artist. 'Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, “Tom Cobb Infantry,” Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry' 1861-62

 

Unknown artist
Captain Charles A. and Sergeant John M. Hawkins, Company E, “Tom Cobb Infantry,” Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry
1861-1862
Quarter-plate ambrotype with applied colour
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Photo: Jack Melton

 

 

The vast majority of war portraits, either cased images or cartes de visite, are of individual soldiers. Group portraits in smaller formats are more rare and challenged the field photographer (as well as the studio gallerist) to conceive and execute an image that would honour the occasion and be desirable – saleable – to multiple sitters. For the patient photographer, this created interesting compositional problems and an excellent opportunity to make memorable group portraits of brothers, friends, and even members of different regiments.

In this quarter-plate ambrotype, Confederate Captain Charles Hawkins of the Thirty-eighth Regiment, Georgia Volunteer Infantry, on the left, sits for his portrait with his brother John, a sergeant in the same regiment. They address the camera and draw their fighting knives from scabbards. Charles would die on June 13, 1863, in the Shenandoah Valley during General Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. John, wounded at the Battle of Gaines’s Mill in June 1862, would survive the war, fighting with his company until its surrender at Appomattox.

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers' June 21, 1865

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Union Private John Parmenter, Company G, Sixty-seventh Pennsylvania Volunteers (Union Private John Parmenter Under Anesthesia on an Operating Table with His Amputated Foot)
June 21, 1865
Carte de visite format albumen silver print from glass negative
5.7 x 9.1 cm (2 1/4 x 3 9/16 in.)
Collection Stanley B. Burns, M.D.

 

 

In this remarkable carte de visite, Private Parmenter lies unconscious from anaesthesia on an operating table at Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. To save his patient’s life, Doctor Bontecou amputated the soldier’s wounded, ulcerous foot. Before the discovery of antibiotics, gangrene was a dreaded and deadly infection that greatly contributed to the high mortality rate of soldiers during the Civil War.

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902) 'Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia' 1863

 

Andrew Joseph Russell (American, 1830-1902)
Slave Pen, Alexandria, Virginia
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Better known for his later views commissioned by the Union Pacific Railroad, A. J. Russell, a captain in the 141st New York Infantry Volunteers, was one of the few Civil War photographers who was also a soldier. As a photographer-engineer for the U.S. Military Railroad Con struction Corps, Russell’s duty was to make a historical record of both the technical accomplishments of General Herman Haupt’s engineers and the battlefields and camp sites in Virginia. This view of a slave pen in Alexandria guarded, ironically, by Union officers shows Russell at his most insightful; the pen had been converted by the Union Army into a prison for captured Confederate soldiers.

Between 1830 and 1836, at the height of the American cotton market, the District of Columbia, which at that time included Alexandria, Virginia, was considered the seat of the slave trade. The most infamous and successful firm in the capital was Franklin & Armfield, whose slave pen is shown here under a later owner’s name. Three to four hundred slaves were regularly kept on the premises in large, heavily locked cells for sale to Southern plantation owners. According to a note by Alexander Gardner, who published a similar view, “Before the war, a child three years old, would sell in Alexandria, for about fifty dollars, and an able-bodied man at from one thousand to eighteen hundred dollars. A woman would bring from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars, according to her age and personal attractions.”

Late in the 1830s Franklin and Armfield, already millionaires from the profits they had made, sold out to George Kephart, one of their former agents. Although slavery was outlawed in the District in 1850, it flourished across the Potomac in Alexandria. In 1859, Kephart joined William Birch, J. C. Cook, and C. M. Price and conducted business under the name of Price, Birch & Co. The partnership was dissolved in 1859, but Kephart continued operating his slave pen until Union troops seized the city in the spring of 1861.

 

Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady. 'Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin' 1860

 

Unknown Artist, after an 1860 carte de visite by Mathew B. Brady
Presidential Campaign Medal with Portraits of Abraham Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin
1860
Tintypes in stamped brass medallion
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Overbrook Foundation Gift, 2012
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

More than 200 of the finest and most poignant photographs of the American Civil War have been brought together for the landmark exhibition Photography and the American Civil War, opening April 2 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Through examples drawn from the Metropolitan’s celebrated holdings of this material, complemented by exceptional loans from public and private collections, the exhibition will examine the evolving role of the camera during the nation’s bloodiest war. The “War between the States” was the great test of the young Republic’s commitment to its founding precepts; it was also a watershed in photographic history. The camera recorded from beginning to end the heartbreaking narrative of the epic four-year war (1861-1865) in which 750,000 lives were lost. This traveling exhibition will explore, through photography, the full pathos of the brutal conflict that, after 150 years, still looms large in the American public’s imagination.

At the start of the Civil War, the nation’s photography galleries and image purveyors were overflowing with a variety of photographs of all kinds and sizes, many examples of which will be featured in the exhibition: portraits made on thin sheets of copper (daguerreotypes), glass (ambrotypes), or iron (tintypes), each housed in a small decorative case; and larger, “painting-sized” likenesses on paper, often embellished with India ink, watercolour, and oils. On sale in bookshops and stationers were thousands of photographic portraits on paper of America’s leading statesmen, artists, and actors, as well as stereographs of notable scenery from New York’s Broadway to Niagara Falls to the canals of Venice. Viewed in a stereopticon, the paired images provided the public with seeming three-dimensionality and the charming pleasure of traveling the world in one’s armchair.

Photography and the Civil War will include: intimate studio portraits of armed Union and Confederate soldiers preparing to meet their destiny; battlefield landscapes strewn with human remains; rare multi-panel panoramas of the killing fields of Gettysburg and destruction of Richmond; diagnostic medical studies of wounded soldiers who survived the war’s last bloody battles; and portraits of Abraham Lincoln as well as his assassin John Wilkes Booth. The exhibition features groundbreaking works by Mathew B. Brady, George N. Barnard, Alexander Gardner, and Timothy O’Sullivan, among many others. It also examines in-depth the important, if generally misunderstood, role played by Brady, perhaps the most famous of all wartime photographers, in conceiving the first extended photographic coverage of any war. The exhibition addresses the widely held, but inaccurate, belief that Brady produced most of the surviving Civil War images, although he actually made very few field photographs during the conflict. Instead, he commissioned and published, over his own name and imprint, negatives made by an ever-expanding team of field operators, including Gardner, O’Sullivan, and Barnard.

The exhibition will feature Gardner’s haunting views of the dead at Antietam in September 1862, which are believed to be the first photographs of the Civil War seen in a public exhibition. A reporter for the New York Times wrote on October 20, 1862, about the images shown at Brady’s New York City gallery: “Mr. Brady has done something to bring home to us the terrible reality and earnestness of war. If he has not brought bodies and laid them in our dooryards and along the streets, he has done something very like it… Here lie men who have not hesitated to seal and stamp their convictions with their blood – men who have flung themselves into the great gulf of the unknown to teach the world that there are truths dearer than life, wrongs and shames more to be dreaded than death.”

Approximately 1,000 photographers worked separately and in teams to produce hundreds of thousands of photographs – portraits and views – that were actively collected during the period (and over the past century and a half) by Americans of all ages and social classes. In a direct expression of the nation’s changing vision of itself, the camera documented the war and also mediated it by memorialising the events of the battlefield as well as the consequent toll on the home front.

Among the many highlights of the exhibition will be a superb selection of early wartime portraits of soldiers and officers who sat for their likenesses before leaving their homes for the war front. In these one-of-a-kind images, a picture of American society emerges. The rarest are ambrotypes and tintypes of Confederates, drawn from the renowned collection of David Wynn Vaughan, who has assembled the country’s premier archive of Southern portraits. These seldom-seen photographs, and those by their Northern counterparts, will balance the well-known and often-reproduced views of bloody battlefields, defensive works, and the specialised equipment of 19th-century war.

The show will focus special attention on the remarkable images included in the two great wartime albums of original photographs: Gardner’s Photographic Sketch Book of War and George N. Barnard’s Photographic Views of Sherman’s Campaign, both released in 1866. The former publication includes 100 views commissioned, sequenced, and annotated by Alexander Gardner. This two-volume opus provides an epic documentation of the war seen through the photographs of 11 artists, including Gardner himself. It features 10 plates of Gettysburg, including Timothy O’Sullivan’s A Harvest of Death, Gettysburg, and Gardner’s Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, both of which are among the most well-known and important images from the early history of photography. The second publication includes 61 large-format views by a single artist, George N. Barnard, who followed the army campaign of one general, William Tecumseh Sherman, in the final months of the war – the “March to the Sea” from Tennessee to Georgia in 1864 and 1865. The exhibition explores how different Barnard’s photographs are from those in Gardner’s Sketch Book, and how distinctly Barnard used the camera to serve a nation trying to heal itself after four long years of war and brother-versus-brother bitterness.

Among the most extraordinary, if shocking, photographs in the exhibition are the portraits by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou of wounded and sick soldiers from the war’s last battles. Drawn from a private medical teaching album put together by this Civil War surgeon and head of Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C., and on loan from the celebrated Burns Archive, the photographs are notable for their humanity and their aesthetics. They recall Walt Whitman’s words from 1865, that war “was not a quadrille in a ball-room. Its interior history will not only never be written, its practicality, minutia of deeds and passions, will never be suggested.” Bontecou’s medical portraits offer a glimpse of what the poet thought was not possible.

In addition to providing a thorough analysis of the camera’s incisive documentation of military activity and its innovative use as a teaching tool for medical doctors, the exhibition explores other roles that photography played during the war. It investigates the relationship between politics and photography during the tumultuous period and presents exceptional political ephemera from the private collection of Brian Caplan, including: a rare set of campaign buttons from 1860 featuring original tintype portraits of the competing candidates; a carved tagua nut necklace featuring photographic portraits of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and two members of his cabinet; and an extraordinary folding game board composed of photographic likenesses of President Lincoln and his generals. The show also includes an inspiring carte de visite portrait of the abolitionist and human rights activist Sojourner Truth. A former slave from New York State, she sold photographs of herself to raise money to educate emancipated slaves, and to support widows, orphans, and the wounded. And finally the exhibition includes the first photographically illustrated “wanted” poster, a printed broadside with affixed photographic portraits that led to the capture John Wilkes Booth and his fellow conspirators after the assassination of President Lincoln in April 1865.

Press release from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website

 

Unknown, American. '[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]' April 20, 1865

 

Unknown (American)
[Broadside for the Capture of John Wilkes Booth, John Surratt, and David Herold]
Artist: Alexander Gardner (American, Glasgow, Scotland 1821-1882 Washington, D.C.)
Photography Studio: Silsbee, Case & Company (American, active Boston)
Photography Studio: Unknown
April 20, 1865
Ink on paper with three albumen silver prints from glass negatives
Sheet: 60.5 x 31.3cm (23 13/16 x 12 5/16 in.)
Each photograph: 8.6 x 5.4cm (3 3/8 x 2 1/8 in.)
Collages
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005

 

 

On the night of April 14, 1865, just five days after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox, John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln at the Ford Theatre in Washington, D.C. Within twenty-four hours, Secret Service director Colonel Lafayette Baker had already acquired photographs of Booth and two of his accomplices. Booth’s photograph was secured by a standard police search of the actor’s room at the National Hotel; a photograph of John Surratt, a suspect in the plot to kill Secretary of State William Seward, was obtained from his mother, Mary (soon to be indicted as a fellow conspirator), and David Herold’s photograph was found in a search of his mother’s carte-de-visite album. The three photographs were taken to Alexander Gardner’s studio for immediate reproduction. This bill was issued on April 20, the first such broadside in America illustrated with photographs tipped onto the sheet.
The descriptions of the alleged conspirators combined with their photographic portraits proved invaluable to the militia. Six days after the poster was released Booth and Herold were recognised by a division of the 16th New York Cavalry. The commanding officer, Lieutenant Edward Doherty, demanded their unconditional surrender when he cornered the two men in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia. Herold complied; Booth refused. Two Secret Service detectives accompanying the cavalry, then set fire to the barn. Booth was shot as he attempted to escape; he died three hours later. After a military trial Herold was hanged on July 7 at the Old Arsenal Prison in Washington, D.C.
 Surratt escaped to England via Canada, eventually settling in Rome. Two years later a former schoolmate from Maryland recognised Surratt, then a member of the Papal Guard, and he was returned to Washington to stand trial. In September 1868 the charges against him were nol-prossed after the trial ended in a hung jury. Surratt retired to Maryland, worked as a clerk, and lived until 1916.

 

Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s) 'The Scourged Back' April 1863

 

Attributed to McPherson & Oliver (American, active New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1860s)
The Scourged Back
April 1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.7 x 5.5cm (3 7/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
International Center of Photography, Purchase, with funds provided by the ICP Acquisitions Committee, 2003

 

 

Gordon, a runaway slave seen with severe whipping scars in this haunting carte-de-visite portrait, is one of the many African Americans whose lives Sojourner Truth endeavoured to better. Perhaps the most famous of all known Civil War-era portraits of slaves, the photograph dates from March or April 1863 and was made in a camp of Union soldiers along the Mississippi River, where the subject took refuge after escaping his bondage on a nearby Mississippi plantation.

On Saturday, July 4, 1863, this portrait and two others of Gordon appeared as wood engravings in a special Independence Day feature in Harper’s Weekly. McPherson & Oliver’s portrait and Gordon’s narrative in the newspaper were extremely popular, and photography studios throughout the North (including Mathew B. Brady’s) duplicated and sold prints of The Scourged Back. Within months, the carte de visite had secured its place as an early example of the wide dissemination of ideologically abolitionist photographs.

 

J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s) 'Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison' 1865

 

J. W. Jones (American, active Orange, Massachusetts, 1860s)
Emaciated Union Soldier Liberated from Andersonville Prison
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Image: 9 x 5.5cm (3 9/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Brian D. Caplan Collection

 

 

Most soldiers who survived Andersonville Prison were marked for life. This portrait of an unidentified former prisoner is one of many that document the intense cruelty of prison life during the Civil War. It would be another eighty years, at the end of World War II, before anyone would see comparable pictures of man’s inhumanity to man.

 

George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s) 'Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry' 1863-65

 

George Wertz (American, active Kansas City, Missouri, 1860s)
Private William Henry Lord, Company I, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry
1863-1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.6cm (3 5/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg Collection

 

 

Private William Henry Lord, a cavalryman, sits alert and ready for the next ride. A yet unmuddied enlistee from “Bleeding Kansas,” the last state to enter the Union before Fort Sumter, Lord was in the Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry; he was wounded in the shoulder in October 1864 but rejoined his company and was mustered out in September 1865.

 

Unknown. 'March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia' April 24, 1861

 

Unknown photographer
March from Annapolis to Washington, Robert C. Rathbone, Sergeant Major, Seventh Regiment, New York Militia
April 24, 1861
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.9 x 5.4cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/8 in.)
Michael J. McAfee Collection

 

 

The Seventh Regiment, New York Militia was among the first military groups to leave for Washington, D.C., after Lincoln’s call to arms in April 1861. In or near Annapolis, en route to the nation’s capital, Sergeant Major Rathbone posed for his portrait. He annotated his likeness with enough information to suggest that this image might be the first (identifiable) photograph of a soldier made after the fall of Fort Sumter. Representative of thousands of similar portraits, this study of an officer seen against a blank wall with just a hint of a studio column is typical of the simplicity of the earliest war pictures.

Note the stand just visible behind Sergeant Major Rathbone’s feet to brace the sitter for the long exposures necessary.

 

Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823?–1896 New York) 'General Robert E. Lee' 1865

 

Mathew B. Brady (American, near Lake George, New York 1823? – 1896 New York)
General Robert E. Lee
1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
14 × 9.3cm (5 1/2 × 3 11/16 in.)
Gilman Collection, Museum Purchase, 2005

 

 

Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered his army to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, on April 9, 1865. The Civil War was over. If not whole, the nation was at least reunited, and the slow recovery of Reconstruction could begin. As soon as he heard that Lee had left Appomattox and returned to Richmond, Mathew B. Brady headed there with his camera equipment. The Lees’ Franklin Street residence had survived the fires that had devastated many of the commercial sections of the city. Through the kindness of Mrs. Lee and a Confederate colonel, Brady received permission to photograph the general on April 16, 1865, just two days after President Lincoln’s assassination. Brady’s portrait of General Lee holding his hat, on his own back porch, is one of the most reflective and thoughtful wartime likenesses. The fifty-eight-year-old Confederate hero poses in the uniform he had worn at the surrender. It would be Brady’s last wartime photograph.

 

Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s) 'Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans' 1863

 

Charles Paxson (American, active New York, 1860s)
Wilson, Branded Slave from New Orleans
1863
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.4 x 5.3cm (3 5/16 x 2 1/16 in.)
Private Collection, Courtesy of William L. Schaeffer

 

 

On January 30, 1864, to fan the anti-slavery cause and promote the sale of abolitionist photographs, Harper’s Weekly published this carte de visite and three others as wood engravings. The newspaper also included stirring bibliographies of the emancipated slaves. The editors noted that Wilson Chinn was about sixty years old. His former master, Volsey B. Marmillion, a sugar planter near New Orleans, “was accustomed to brand his negroes, and Wilson has on his forehead the letters ‘V.B.M.'”

 

Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s) 'Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry' January-May 1865

 

Gayford & Speidel (Active Rock Island, Illinois, 1860s)
Private Louis Troutman, Company F, 108th Regiment, U.S. Colored Infantry
January – May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
8.8 x 5.4cm (3 7/16 x 2 1/8 in.)
Thomas Harris Collection

 

Samuel Masury (American, 1818-1874) 'Frances Clalin Clayton' 1864-66

 

Samuel Masury (American, 1818-1874)
Frances Clalin Clayton
1864-1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
9.4 x 5.6cm (3 11/16 x 2 3/16 in.)
Buck Zaidel Collection

 

 

Frances Clayton is an exception – a woman who served in the Union army by disguising herself as a man. In a popular carte de visite collected by soldiers at the end of the war, she poses here as Jack Williams and suggestively holds the handle of a cavalry sword between her crossed legs. The facts of her life story and military service are difficult to confirm, but it is believed that she served in the Missouri cavalry (or infantry) beside her husband, who died at the Battle of Stones River in late December 1862.

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907) 'Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry' April-May 1865

 

Reed Brockway Bontecou (American, 1824-1907)
Private Samuel Shoop, Company F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry
April-May 1865
Albumen silver print from glass negative
18.9 × 13.1cm (7 7/16 × 5 3/16 in.)
Gift of Stanley B. Burns, M.D. and The Burns Archive, 1992

 

 

The last great battle of the Civil War was the siege of Petersburg, Virginia – a brutal campaign that led to Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender on April 9, 1865. Samuel Shoop, a twenty-five-year-old private in Company F of the 200th Pennsylvania Volunteers, received a gunshot wound in the thigh at Fort Steadman on the first day of the campaign (March 25) and was evacuated to Harewood Hospital in Washington, D.C. His leg was amputated by Dr. Reed Brockway Bontecou, surgeon in charge, who also made this clinical photograph. It was intended, in part, to serve as a tool for teaching fellow army surgeons and is an extremely rare example of the early professional use of photography in America.

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902) 'Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah' 1866

 

George N. Barnard (American, 1819-1902)
Bonaventure Cemetery, Four Miles from Savannah
1866
Albumen silver print from glass negative
34 x 26.4cm (13 3/8 x 10 3/8 in.)
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005

 

Unknown. 'Sojourner Truth, "I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance"' 1864

 

Unknown photographer
Sojourner Truth, “I Sell the Shadow to Support the Substance”
1864
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, Alfred Stieglitz Society Gifts, 2013
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

 

 

Sojourner Truth (c. 1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man. Her best-known extemporaneous speech on gender inequalities, “Ain’t I a Woman?”, was delivered in 1851 at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio. During the Civil War, Truth helped recruit black troops for the Union Army; after the war, she tried unsuccessfully to secure land grants from the federal government for former slaves.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Mathew B. Brady (American (born Ireland), 1823/24-1896 New York) Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888) 'Abraham Lincoln' February 27, 1860

 

Mathew B. Brady (American born Ireland, 1823/1824-1896 New York)
Edward Anthony (American, 1818-1888)
Abraham Lincoln
February 27, 1860
Albumen silver print from glass negative
Carte-de-visite
The Meserve-Kunhardt Foundation

 

 

Three months before his nomination as the Republican Party candidate for president, Abraham Lincoln went East, stopping in New York City on February 27, 1860, to give a speech at the Cooper Institute (now the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art). Many considered Lincoln’s powerful antislavery lecture as his most important to date. The closing words spurred his audience and the country at large: “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it.”

Earlier in the day he sat for this portrait at Mathew B. Brady’s gallery on Broadway and Tenth Street, just a few blocks from the lecture hall. Although his visit to the studio could not have lasted long, the result of this first of many portrait sessions with Brady was a simple but powerful image that would alter the visual landscape during the upcoming election. In a single exposure on a silver-coated sheet of glass, Brady captured the odd physiognomy of the man who would change the course of American history.

 

Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62?

 

Unknown photographer
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

 

 

This portrait of a cavalryman is an excellent example of a well-armed Confederate soldier. Private House wears a slouch hat and a checked battle shirt seen through the gaps in a modified woollen shell jacket with tabbed button closures. He brandishes his fighting knife and for quick use has half removed a pocket revolver from its belted holster. Perhaps the most frightening weapons in House’s personal arsenal may be his focused stare and his set jaw.

16th Cavalry Battalion was assembled in May, 1862, at Big Shanty, Georgia, and was composed of six companies. It served in East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia and took part in the engagements at Blue Springs, Bean’s Station, Cloyd’s Mountain, and Marion. In January, 1865, the battalion merged into the 13th Georgia Cavalry Regiment. Lieutenant Colonels F.M. Nix and Samuel J. Winn, and Major Edward Y. Clarke were its commanding officers.

 

Unknown. '[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee]' 1861-62? (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
[Private James House with Fighting Knife, Sixteenth Georgia Cavalry Battalion, Army of Tennessee] (detail)
1861-62?
Ambrotype
Sixth-plate; ruby glass
David Wynn Vaughan Collection
Image: Jack Melton

 

Unknown, American. 'Union Sergent John Emery' 1861-65

 

Unknown photographer (American)
Union Sergent John Emery
1861-65
Tintype
Plate: 8.9 x 6.4cm (3 1/2 x 2 1/2 in.)
Case: 10 × 8.9cm (3 15/16 × 3 1/2 in.)
The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Fund, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2012

 

 

The only details presently known about this handsome, young Union sergeant wearing a striped bowtie and an imported English snake belt buckle derive from a small paper note found behind the portrait inside the thermoplastic case: “Uncle John Emery / brother of / Lucy King / buried at E. Concord / died in 1876 / buried at back in right corner.”

 

Unknown. '[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, "Walton Infantry," Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]' 1861

 

Unknown photographer
[Private Thomas Gaston Wood, Drummer, Company H, “Walton Infantry,” Eleventh Regiment Georgia Volunteer Infantry]
1861
Tintype
Plate: 6.4 x 5.1cm (2 1/2 x 2 in.)
David Wynn Vaughan Collection

 

 

Private Wood sits against a blank wall in a photographer’s studio. He is sixteen years old and will not see seventeen. An orphan, he joined Company H in Social Circle, Georgia, on July 3, 1861, and before the end of the year died of pneumonia in a Richmond hospital. Wood seems proud of his shell jacket and especially his kepi, which he marked under the brim with his initials. The photographer tipped up the cap to reveal the sitter’s handiwork, but the letters are laterally reversed in the tintype. As a musician, he poses without any prop other than his uniform, the buttons touched with gold.

 

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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24
Jan
13

Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston – Posting Part 4

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

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Under blue & gray – Gettysburg' July 1913

 

Anonymous photographer
Under blue & gray – Gettysburg
July 1913
Photo shows the Gettysburg Reunion (the Great Reunion) of July 1913, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

 

 

Part 4 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 3

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

 

Memorials

25. Photographs in the “Memorials” section range from the tomb of an unknown World War I soldier in England, by Horace Nicholls; and a landscape of black German crosses throughout a World War II burial site, by Bertrand Carrière; to an anonymous photograph of a reunion scene in Gettysburg of the opposing sides in the Civil War; and Joel Sternfeld’s picture of a woman and her daughter at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, in 1986. (8 images)

 

Horace Nicholls. 'The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London, November 1920' 1920

 

Horace Nicholls (English, 1867-1941)
The Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey, London, November 1920
1920
Silver gelatin print
© IWM (Q 31514)

 

 

In order to commemorate the many soldiers with no known grave, it was decided to bury an ‘Unknown Warrior’ with all due ceremony in Westminster Abbey on Armistice Day in 1920. The photograph shows the coffin resting on a cloth in the nave of Westminster Abbey before the ceremony at the Cenotaph and its final burial.

 

Bertrand Carrière. 'Untitled' 2005-2009

 

Bertrand Carrière (Canadian, b. 1957)
Untitled
2005-2009
From the series Lieux Mêmes [Same Places]

 

Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944) 'Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.,' May 1986

 

Joel Sternfeld (American, b. 1944)
Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Washington, D.C.,
May 1986
Chromogenic print, ed. #1/25 (printed October 1986)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Target Collection of American Photography, gift of the artist
© 1986 Joel Sternfeld

 

 

Remembrance

26. The last gallery in the exhibition is “Remembrance.” Most of these images were taken by artists seeking to come to terms with a conflict after fighting had ceased. Included are Richard Avedon’s picture of a Vietnamese napalm victim; a survivor of a machete attack in a Rwandan death camp, by James Nachtwey; a 1986 portrait of a hero who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, by Houston native Gay Block; and Suzanne Opton’s 2004 portrait of a soldier who survived the Iraq War and returned to the United States to work as a police officer, only to be murdered on duty by a fellow veteran. The final wall features photographs by Simon Norfolk of sunrises at the five D-Day beaches in 2004. The only reference to war is the title of the series: The Normandy Beaches: We Are Making a New World(33 images)

 

Richard Avedon. 'Napalm Victim #1, Saigon, South Vietnam, April 29, 1971' 1971

 

Richard Avedon (American, 1923-2004)
Napalm Victim #1, Saigon, South Vietnam, April 29, 1971
1971
Silver gelatin print
© Richard Avedon

 

Gay Block (American, b.1942) 'Zofia Baniecka, Poland' 1986

 

Gay Block (American, b. 1942)
Zofia Baniecka, Poland
1986
From the series Rescuers: Portraits of Moral Courage in the Holocaust, a record of non-Jewish citizens from European countries who risked their lives helping to hide Jews from the Nazis
Chromogenic print, printed 1994
Courtesy of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Clinton T. Wilour in honour of Eve France

 

 

Zofia Baniecka (born 1917 in Warsaw – 1993) was a Polish member of the Resistance during World War II. In addition to relaying guns and other materials to resistance fighters, Baniecka and her mother rescued over 50 Jews in their home between 1941 and 1944.

 

James Nachtwey. 'A Hutu man who did not support the genocide had been imprisoned in the concentration camp, was starved and attacked with machetes. He managed to survive after he was freed and was placed in the care of the Red Cross, Rwanda, 1994' 1994

 

James Nachtwey (American, b. 1948)
A Hutu man who did not support the genocide had been imprisoned in the concentration camp, was starved and attacked with machetes. He managed to survive after he was freed and was placed in the care of the Red Cross, Rwanda, 1994
1994
Silver gelatin print
© James Nachtwey / TIME

 

Simon Norfolk (British, b. Nigeria, 1963) 'Sword Beach' 2004

 

Simon Norfolk (British born Nigeria, b. 1963)
Sword Beach
2004
From the series The Normandy Beaches: We Are Making a New World
Chromogenic print, ed. #1/10 (printed 2006)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Bari and David Fishel, Brooke and Dan Feather and Hayley Herzstein in honor of Max Herzstein and a partial gift of the artist and Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica
© Simon Norfolk / Gallery Luisotti

 

 

Other photographs from the exhibition

Matsumoto Eiichi (Japanese, 1915-2004) 'Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters (Minami-Yamate machi, 4.5km from Ground Zero)' 1945

 

Matsumoto Eiichi (Japanese, 1915-2004)
Shadow of a soldier remaining on the wooden wall of the Nagasaki military headquarters (Minami-Yamate machi, 4.5km from Ground Zero)
1945
Gelatin silver print
Collection of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography
© Matsumoto Eiichi

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970) 'Young Catholic demonstrator on Londonderry Wall, Northern Ireland' 1969

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Young Catholic demonstrator on Londonderry Wall, Northern Ireland
1969
Gelatin silver print
Courtesy of Foundation Gilles Caron and Contact Press Images
© Gilles Caron

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882) ‘The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania’. Albumen paper print

 

Alexander Gardner (American, 1821-1882)
The Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter / Dead Confederate soldier in the devil’s den, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
July 1863
Albumen paper print copied from glass, wet collodion negative
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

 

Ziv Koren (Israeli, b.1970) 'A sniper’s-eye view of Rafah, in the Southern Gaza strip, during an Israeli military sweep' 2006

 

Ziv Koren (Israeli, b. 1970)
A sniper’s-eye view of Rafah, in the Southern Gaza strip, during an Israeli military sweep
2006
Inkjet print, printed 2012
© Ziv Koren/Polaris Images

 

David Leeson American, b.1957 'Death of a Soldier, Iraq' March 24, 2003

 

David Leeson (American, b. 1957)
Death of a Soldier, Iraq
March 24, 2003
Inkjet print, printed 2012
Courtesy of the artist

 

August Sander German, 1876-1964 'Soldier' c. 1940

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Soldier
c. 1940
Gelatin silver print, printed by Gunther Sander, 1960s
The MFAH, gift of John S. and Nancy Nolan Parsley in honour of the 65th birthday of Anne Wilkes Tucker
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK StiftungKultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London 2012

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Wednesday 11am – 5pm
Thursday 11am – 9pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12.30pm – 6pm
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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston website

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18
Jan
13

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

 

Walter Astrada (Argentinean, born 1974) 'Congolese women fleeing to Goma, from the series Violence against women in Congo, Rape as weapon of war in DRC' 2008

 

Walter Astrada, (Argentinean, b. 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

 

 

“War is, above all, grief.”

.
Dmitri Baltermants

 

“Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent”

.
Salvor Hardin in Isaac Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ series

 

 

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

 

Civilians

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 1940/1941 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)

 

Dmitri Baltermants. 'Grief, Kerch, Crimea' Spring 1942

 

Dmitri Baltermants (Russian born Poland, 1912-1990)
Grief, Kerch, Crimea
Spring 1942
Silver gelatin print

 

 

“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)

 

Cas Oorthuys. 'Portrait of starving woman in the hunger winter, Amsterdam' 1944-1945

 

Cas Oorthuys (Dutch, 1908-1975)
Portrait of starving woman in the hunger winter, Amsterdam
1944-1945
Silver gelatin print

 

Otto Hagel. 'German-Americans at a meeting in New Jersey of the Deutsche Bund' 1940-41

 

Otto Hagel (American born Germany, 1909-1973)
German-Americans at a meeting in New Jersey of the Deutsche Bund
1940-1941
Silver gelatin print

 

Malcolm Browne. 'Burning Monk - The Self-Immolation' 1963

 

Malcolm Browne (American, 1931-2012)
Burning Monk – The Self-Immolation
1963
Gelatin silver print

 

Harry Benson. 'Grieving man, holding flag' 1971

 

Harry Benson (Scottish, b. 1929)
Grieving man, holding flag
1971
Gelatin silver print

 

 

Children

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) 

 

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

 

Andrea Bruce (American, b. 1973)
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
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

Cecil Beaton (British, 1904-1980)
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)

 

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

 

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

 

 

Portraits

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)

 

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

 

Corporal Reynaldo Leal USMC (American, b. 1983)
Self‑portrait after a Patrol
c. 2004-2006
Inkjet print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Will Michels and Clinton T. Willour
© Reynaldo Leal

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

War’s End

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)

 

Evgeny Khaldey. 'The Flag of Victory' 1945

 

Evgeny Khaldey (Russian, 1917-1997)
The Flag of Victory
1945
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

Carl Mydans (American, 1907-2004)
Japanese signing peace documents on board the ‘USS Missouri’
1945
Gelatin silver print

 

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

 

Simon Norfolk (British born Nigeria, b. 1963)
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

 

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

 

Robert Capa (Hungarian-American, 1913-1954)
Collaborator woman who had a German soldier’s child, Chartres, 18 August 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print
33 x 49cm

 

E. G. Malindine. 'German Military Forces Seek Surrender Terms, May 1945'

 

E. G. Malindine (British, 1906-1970)
No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Malindine E G (Capt), Morris (Sgt)
German Military Forces Seek Surrender Terms, May 1945
1945
Gelatin silver print
Public domain

 

Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery with the German delegates outside his headquarters at 21st Army Group

 

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

 

Sal Velder (American, b. 1926)
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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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Thursday 11am – 9pm
Friday 11am – 6pm
Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12.30pm – 6pm
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Tuesday Closed

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09
Dec
12

Exhibition: ‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath’ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Part 1

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

Curators: Anne Tucker, Natalie Zelt and Will Michels

 

Roger Fenton. 'The Valley of the Shadow of Death' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The Valley of the Shadow of Death
1855

 

 

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 (NGV please note!). 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 2Part 3Part 4

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
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.

 

 

On November 11, 2012, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, debuts an unprecedented exhibition exploring the experience of war through the eyes of photographers. WAR / PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath features nearly 500 objects, including photographs, books, magazines, albums and photographic equipment. The photographs were made by more than 280 photographers, from 28 nations, who have covered conflict on six continents over 165 years, from the Mexican-American War of 1846 through present-day conflicts. The exhibition takes a critical look at the relationship between war and photography, exploring what types of photographs are, and are not, made, and by whom and for whom. Rather than a chronological survey of wartime photographs or a survey of “greatest hits,” the exhibition presents types of photographs repeatedly made during the many phases of war – regardless of the size or cause of the conflict, the photographers’ or subjects’ culture or the era in which the pictures were recorded. The images in the exhibition are organised according to the progression of war: from the acts that instigate armed conflict, to “the fight,” to victory and defeat, and images that memorialise a war, its combatants and its victims. Both iconic images and previously unknown images are on view, taken by military photographers, commercial photographers (portrait and photojournalist), amateurs and artists.

“‘WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY’ promises to be another pioneering exhibition, following other landmark MFAH photography exhibitions such as ‘Czech Modernism: 1900-1945’ (1989) and ‘The History of Japanese Photography’ (2003),” said Gary Tinterow, MFAH director. “Anne Tucker, along with her co-curators, Natalie Zelt and Will Michels, has spent a decade preparing this unprecedented exploration of the complex and profound relationship between war and photography.” “Photographs serve the public as a collective memory of the experience of war, yet most presentations that deal with the material are organised chronologically,” commented Tucker. “We believe ‘WAR / PHOTOGRAPHY’ is unique in its scope, exploring conflict and its consequences across the globe and over time, analysing this complex and unrelenting phenomenon.”

The earliest work in the exhibition is from 1847, taken from the first photographed conflict: the Mexican-American War. Other early examples include photographs from the Crimean War, such as Roger Fenton’s iconic The Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855) and Felice Beato’s photograph of the devastated interior of Fort Taku in China during the Second Opium War (1860). Among the most recent images is a 2008 photograph of the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade in the remote Korengal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan by Tim Hetherington, who was killed in April 2011 while covering the civil war in Libya. Also represented with two photographs in the exhibition is Chris Hondros, who was killed with Hetherington. While the exhibition is organised according to the phases of war, portraits of servicemen, military and political leaders and civilians are a consistent presence throughout, including Yousuf Karsh’s classic 1941 image of Winston Churchill, and the Marlboro Marine (2004), taken by embedded Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco of soldier James Blake Miller after an assault in Fallujah, Iraq. Sinco’s image was published worldwide on the cover of 150 publications and became a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

The exhibition was initiated in 2002, when the MFAH acquired what is purported to be the first print made from Joe Rosenthal’s negative of Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima (1945). From this initial acquisition, the curators decided to organise an exhibition that would focus on war photography as a genre. During the evolution of the project, the museum acquired more than a third of the prints in the exhibition. 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: World Press Photo (Amsterdam) and Visa pour l’Image (Perpignan, France). The curators based their appraisals on the clarity of the photographers’ observation and capacity to make memorable and striking pictures that have lasting relevance. The pictures were recorded by some of the most celebrated conflict photographers, as well as by many who remain anonymous. Almost every photographic process is included, ranging from daguerreotypes to inkjet prints, digital captures and cell-phone shots.

Press release from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

 

Yousuf Karsh. 'Winston Churchill' 1941

 

Yousuf Karsh (Armenian-Canadian, 1908-2002)
Winston Churchill
1941
Gelatin silver print

 

 

WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath is organised into 26 sections, which unfold in the sequence that typifies the stages of war, from the advent of conflict through the fight, aftermath and remembrance. Each section showcases images appropriate to that category while cutting across cultures, time and place. Outside of this chronological approach are focused galleries for “Media Coverage and Dissemination” (with an emphasis on technology); “Iwo Jima” (a case study); and “Photographic Essays” (excerpts from two landmark photojournalism essays, by Larry Burrows and Todd Heisler).

 

Media Coverage and Dissemination

1. Media Coverage and Dissemination provides an overview of how technology has profoundly affected the ways that pictures from the front reach the public: from Roger Fenton and his horse-drawn photography van (commissioned by the British government to document the Crimean War), to Joe Rosenthal’s 1940s Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5) camera, to pictures taken with the Hipstamatic app of an iPhone by photojournalist Michael Christopher Brown in Egypt during the protests and clashes of the Arab Spring. (22 images / objects)

 

Roger Fenton (English, 1819-1869) 'The artist's van [Marcus Sparling, full-length portrait, seated on Roger Fenton's photographic van]' 1855

 

Roger Fenton (British, 1819-1869)
The artist’s van [Marcus Sparling, full-length portrait, seated on Roger Fenton’s photographic van]
1855
Salted paper print
17.5 × 16.5cm
Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

 

Manufactured by Graflex, active 1912-1973. 'Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5), "Scott S. Wigle camera" (First American-made D-Day picture)' c. 1940

 

Manufactured by Graflex, active 1912-1973
Anniversary Speed Graphic (4 x 5), “Scott S. Wigle camera” (First American-made D-Day picture)
c. 1940
Camera
Collection of George Eastman House (Gift of Graflex, Inc.)

 

 

An Advent of War

2. The photographs in An Advent of War depict the catalytic events of war. These moments of instigation are rarely captured, as photographers are not always present at the initial attack or provocation. Photographs that Robert Clark took on the morning of September 11, 2001, and the aerial view of torpedoes approaching Battleship Row during the Pearl Harbor attack, taken by an unknown Japanese airman on December 7, 1941, both convey with clarity the concept of war’s advent. (11 images).

 

Unknown photographer, Japanese. 'War in Hawaiian Water. Japanese Torpedoes Attack Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor' December 7, 1941

 

Unknown photographer (Japanese)
War in Hawaiian Water. Japanese Torpedoes Attack Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor
December 7, 1941
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels

 

 

Recruitment & Embarkation

3. Recruitment & Embarkation shows mobilisation: the movement toward the front. Mikhail Trakhman captures a Russian mother kissing her son goodbye in Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans (1942), while a 1916 photograph by Josiah Barnes, known as the “Embarkation Photographer,” shows an archetypal moment: young Australian soldiers waving goodbye from a ship as they depart their home country to fight in World War I. (7 images)

 

Josiah Barnes (Australian, 1858-1921) 'Embarkation of HMAT Ajana, Melbourne' July 8, 1916

 

Josiah Barnes (Australian, 1858-1921)
Embarkation of HMAT Ajana, Melbourne
July 8, 1916
Gelatin silver print (printed 2012)
On loan from the Australian War Memorial

 

 

Known as “the embarkation photographer”, the Kew, Melbourne photographer Josiah Barnes took an interest in photographing Australian troopships as they departed for war from Melbourne. He had two sons, “Norm and Victor, who left for war in 1916 (both returned to Australia after their service),” which may have fuelled his interest.

 

Mikhail Trakhman. 'Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans' 1942

 

Mikhail Trakhman (Russian, 1918-1976)
Kolkhoz farmer M. Nikolaïeva bids her son Ivan goodbye before he joins the partisans
1942
Gelatin silver print

 

 

A kolkhoz was a form of collective farm in the Soviet Union which, alongside sovkhoz (state farm), formed the main components of the socialised farm sector which emerged after the October Revolution of 1917 as an antithesis to feudalism, aristocratic landlords, serfdom and individual farming.

 

Mikhail Trakhman

Mikhail Trakhman was born in Moscow in 1918. After graduating from school, he began working at the newsreel studio and at the same time studying for courses in the field of assistant operator. From 1938 he became the photo reporter of the Uchitelskaya Gazeta, and in 1939 he was drafted into the army and participated in the Soviet-Finnish war. During the Great Patriotic War, Mikhail Trakhman worked as a press photographer for the Soviet Information Bureau. His main instrument was the famous “Leica” camera, but often military weapons fell into his hands. He shot in besieged Leningrad, in Pskov and in Belarus, participated in the liberation of Poland and Hungary. The most famous are his photographs from the partisan series taken in the rear of the German troops. In his diaries, he wrote: “I take a lot of things, although I know that 80% of the shot will go to the basket, but I need to shoot it, since such things happen once in a lifetime.” Thanks to these photos, he entered the history of war reporting. Mikhail Trakhman was awarded the Order of the Red Star and the medal “For the Defense of Leningrad” and “Partisan Medal”, which he especially valued.

Anonymous. “Mikhail Trakhman,” on the Lumiere Brothers Gallery website [Online] Cited 06/09/2020

 

 

Training

4. Training explores photographs of soldiers in boot camp or more-advanced phases of instruction and exercise. World War II Royal Navy officers gather around a desk to study different types of aircraft in a photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton. Also included is the iconic Vietnam-era photograph of a U.S. Marine drill sergeant reprimanding a recruit in South Carolina, from Thomas Hoepker’s series US Marine Corps boot camp, 1970. In one photograph, shot by a Japanese soldier and published in 1938 by Look magazine, Japanese soldiers use living Chinese prisoners in bayonet practice. (13 images) 

 

Thomas Hoepker (German, b. 1936) 'A US Marine drill sergeant delivers a severe reprimand to a recruit, Parris Island, South Carolina' 1970

 

Thomas Hoepker (German, b. 1936)
A US Marine drill sergeant delivers a severe reprimand to a recruit, Parris Island, South Carolina
1970
From the series US Marine Corps boot camp, 1970
Inkjet print
Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos
© Thomas Hoepker / Magnum Photos

 

 

Daily Routine

5. Daily Routine features moments of boredom, routine and playfulness. A member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps wears a gas mask as he peels onions. A 1942 photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton catches the off-guard expression of a Royal Navy man at a sewing machine, mending a signal flag. (13 images)

 

Anonymous photographer. 'Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California' 1918

 

Anonymous photographer
Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California
1918
National Archives and Records Administration

 

Cecil Beaton (English, 1904-1980) 'A Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Alcantara uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone' March 1942

 

Cecil Beaton (English, 1904-1980)
A Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Alcantara uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone
March 1942
Gelatin silver print, printed 2012
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation
© The Imperial War Museums (neg. #CBM 1049)

 

 

HMS Alcantara

HMS Alcatara was an RML passenger liner of 22,209 tons and 19 knots launched in 1926, and taken up by the Royal Navy for conversion to an armed merchant cruiser to counter the threat posed by German surface raiders against shipping. When Jim Hingston joined her as an ordinary seaman at Freetown she was still largely in merchant dress, with wood panelling throughout. Much to the regret of her crew this was removed during their stay at Simonstown – the wisdom of that was apparent to them only too soon.

There were some 53 such ships in all, poorly armed, in Alcantara’s case with eight 6 inch and two 3 inch guns, the former having a range of some 14,200 yards (13,000 metres). Such armament could not be much more than defensive, the intention being that the AMCs should radio the position of the German ship and not only give merchant shipping a chance to escape but delay the commerce raider long enough to allow regular RN warships to get to the scene.

Alcantara’s opponent, the Thor, was laid down in 1938 as a freighter of 9,200 tons displacement and a speed of 18 knots, but commissioned as a commerce raider on 14 March 1940. Though she had only 6 150 mm guns they had a much greater range, at 20,000 yards, than Alcantara and other British AMCs. She also carried a scout floatplane. During the engagement with Alcantara on 28 July 1940 the Thor inflicted significant damage but the Alcantara successfully closed, and after being hit the Thor withdrew in order to avoid the risk of being crippled or being forced to abort her mission. In later encounters with AMCs the Thor severely damaged the Carnarvon Castle and sank Voltaire.

HMS Alcantara later had her 6 in armament upgraded and was equipped with a seaplane, but as the threat of surface raiders receded she was converted to her more natural role of troopship in 1943.

 

 

Reconnaissance, Resistance and Sabotage

6. Images of Reconnaissance, Resistance and Sabotage are scarce by nature, as they reveal spies in the act and could be used against those depicted or their families. A U.S. soldier on night watch sits atop a mountain in Afghanistan, wrapped in a blanket and peering into night-vision equipment, in a photograph by Adam Ferguson. A photograph by T. E. Lawrence (known as Lawrence of Arabia) documents the bombing of the Hejaz Railway during the Arab Revolt. Cas Oorthuys’ photograph Under German Occupation (Dutch Worker’s Front), Amsterdam (c. 1940-1945), taken with a camera hidden in his jacket, shows the back of a fellow countryman who is helping to conceal the photographer, with German troops in the distance. Also included is Arkady Shaikhet’s 1942 photograph Partisan Girl depicting Olga Mekheda, who was renowned for her ability to get through German roadblocks – even while pregnant. (10 images)

 

T.E. Lawrence. 'Untitled [A Tulip bomb explodes on the railway Hejaz Railway, near Deraa, Hejaz, Ottoman Empire]' 1918

 

T.E. Lawrence (British, 1888-1935)
Untitled [A Tulip bomb explodes on the railway Hejaz Railway, near Deraa, Hejaz, Ottoman Empire]
1918
Collection of the MFA Houston

 

Cas Oorthuys (Dutch, 1908-1975) 'Under German Occupation (Dutch Worker's Front), Amsterdam' c. 1940-1945

 

Cas Oorthuys (Dutch, 1908-1975)
Under German Occupation (Dutch Worker’s Front), Amsterdam
c. 1940-1945
Gelatin silver print
13 7/8 × 11 5/8 in. (35.2 × 29.5cm)
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum purchase funded by Anne Wilkes Tucker in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of Max and Isabell Smith Herzstein

 

Adam Ferguson. 'September 4, Tangi valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, a soldier of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was attentively monitoring a highway' September 4, 2009

 

Adam Ferguson (Australian, b. 1978)
September 4, Tangi valley, Wardak province, Afghanistan, a soldier of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division was  attentively monitoring a highway
September 4, 2009

 

 

“To me, this picture epitomises the abstract idea of the ‘enemy’ that exists within the U.S. led war in Afghanistan: a young infantryman watches a road with a long-range acquisition sight surveying for insurgents planting Improvised Explosive Devices. U.S. Army Infantrymen rarely knowingly come face to face with their enemy, combat is fleeting and fought like cat and mouse, and the most decisive blows are determined by intelligence gathering, and then delivered through technology that maintains a safe distance, just like a video game.” ~ Adam Ferguson

 

Arkady Shaikhet (Russian, 1898-1959) 'Partisan Girl' 1942

 

Arkady Shaikhet (Russian, 1898-1959)
Partisan Girl
1942
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Marion Mundy
© Arkady Shaikhet Estate, Moscow, courtesy Nailya Alexander Gallery, NYC

 

 

Patrol & Troop Movement

7. Patrol & Troop Movement conveys the mass movements of peoples and personnel by land, sea and air, from the movement of troops and supplies to patrols by all five divisions of military service: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Air Force. Combat patrols are detachments of forces sent into hostile terrain for a range of missions, and they – as well as the photographers accompanying them – face considerable danger. João Silva’s three sequenced frames show, through his eyes, the tilted earth just after he was felled by an IED while on patrol in Afghanistan in 2010; he lost both legs in the incident. A tranquil, 1917 image by Australian James Frank Hurley depicts silhouetted soldiers walking in a line, their reflections captured in a body of water. A 1943 photograph by American Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR shows members of the U.S. Coast Guard observing a depth-charge explosion hitting a German submarine that stalked their convoy. (14 images)

.

João Silva. 'Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division react to photographer Joao Silva stepping on a mine in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 23, 2010'

 

João Silva (South African born Portugal, b. 1966)
Soldiers of Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 66th Armored Regiment, 4th Infantry Division react to photographer Joao Silva stepping on a mine in the Arghandab district of Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, on Oct. 23, 2010, in a three-photo combination. For American troops in heavily-mined Afghan villages, steering clear of improvised explosive devices is the most difficult task
October 23, 2010
© João Silva / The New York Times via Redux

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962) 'Supporting troops of the 1st Australian Division walking on a duckboard track' 1917

 

Frank Hurley (Australian, 1885-1962)
Supporting troops of the 1st Australian Division walking on a duckboard track
1917

 

Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR, American USCG. 'Cutter Spencer destroys Nazi sub' April 17, 1943

 

Warrant Photographer Jess W. January USCGR, American
USCG Cutter Spencer destroys Nazi sub
April 17, 1943
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

 

 

The Wait

8. The Wait depicts a common situation of wartime. Susan Meiselas captures a tense moment during a 1978 street fight in Nicaragua, when muchachos with Molotov cocktails line up in an alleyway, ready to initiate an attack on the National Guard. Robert Capa shows two female French ambulance drivers in Italy during World War II, leaning against their vehicle, knitting, as they wait to be called. (8 images)

 

Robert Capa (1913-1954) 'Drivers from the French ambulance corps near the front, waiting to be called' Italy, 1944

 

Robert Capa (American-Hungarian, 1913-1954)
Drivers from the French ambulance corps near the front, waiting to be called
Italy, 1944
Original album – Italy. Cassino Campaign. W.W.II.
© 2001 By Cornell Capa, Agentur Magnum

 

Susan Meiselas. 'Muchachos Await Counter Attack by The National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua' 1978

 

Susan Meiselas (American, b. 1948)
Muchachos Await Counter Attack by The National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua
1978
Chromogenic print (printed 2006)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2006
© Susan Meiselas / Magnum Photos

 

 

The Fight

9. The Fight is one of the most extensive sections in the exhibition. Dmitri Baltermants shot Attack – Eastern Front WWII (cover image of the exhibition catalogue) in 1941 from the trench, as men charged over him. Sky Over Sevastopol (1944), by Evgeny Khaldey, is an aerial photograph of planes on their way to a bombing raid of the strategically important naval point. Joe Rosenthal’s Over the Top – American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima (1945) pictures infantrymen emerging from the protection of their landing craft into enemy fire. Staged photographs, presented as authentic documents, tend to proliferate during wartime, and several examples are included here. In 1942 the Public Relations Department of the War issued an assignment to photographers to create “representative” images of combat in North Africa for more dynamic images; official British photographer Len Chetwyn staged an Australian officer leading the charging line in the battle of El Alamein, using smoke in the background from the cookhouse to create a lively image. (21 images)

 

Len Chetwyn, English, (1909-1980) 'Australians approached the strong point, ready to rush in from different sides' November 3, 1942

 

Len Chetwyn (English, 1909-1980)
Australians approached the strong point, ready to rush in from different sides
November 3, 1942
Silver gelatin photograph

 

Joe Rosenthal (American, 1911-2006) 'Over the Top - American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima' 1945

Joe Rosenthal, American (1911-2006) 'Over the Top - American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima' February 19, 1945

 

Joe Rosenthal American (1911-2006)
Over the Top – American Troops Move onto the Beach at Iwo Jima
February 19, 1945
Gelatin silver print with applied ink (printed February 23, 1945)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Richard S. and Dodie Otey Jackson in honor of Ira J. Jackson, M.D., and his service in the Pacific Theater during World War II
© AP / Wide World Photos

 

Dmitri Baltermants. 'Attack - Eastern Front WWII' 1941

 

Dmitri Baltermants (Russian, 1912-1990)
Attack – Eastern Front WWII
1941
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

The Wait and Rescue

10. The Wait and Rescue bookend The Fight. Among the photographs in Rescue are Ambush of the 173rd AB, South Vietnam (1965), by Tim Page, showing soldiers immediately combing through a battleground to assist the wounded; American Lt. Wayne Miller’s image of a wounded gunner being lifted from the turret of a torpedo bomber; and Life magazine photographer W. Eugene Smith’s 1944 photograph of an American soldier rescuing a dying Japanese infant. Smith wrote about that moment, stating “hands trained for killing gently… extricated the infant” to be transported to medical care. (8 images) 

 

Lt. Wayne Miller. 'Crewmen lifting Kenneth Bratton out of turret of TBF on the USS SARATOGA after raid on Rabaul' November 1943

 

Lt. Wayne Miller
Crewmen lifting Kenneth Bratton out of turret of TBF on the USS SARATOGA after raid on Rabaul
November 1943
Silver gelatin photograph

 

 

More information: Kenneth C. Bratton – Mississippi (WWII vet). He was born in Pontotoc, MS, December 17, 1918. He passed away April 15, 1982. Lt. Bratton won a purple heart for his bravery during the attack on Rabaul November 11, 1943.

 

The Grumman TBF Avenger (designated TBM for aircraft manufactured by General Motors) is an American World War II-era torpedo bomber developed initially for the United States Navy and Marine Corps, and eventually used by several air and naval aviation services around the world.

The Avenger entered U.S. service in 1942, and first saw action during the Battle of Midway. Despite the loss of five of the six Avengers on its combat debut, it survived in service to become the most effective and widely-used torpedo bomber of World War II, sharing credit for sinking the super-battleships Yamato and Musashi (the only ships of that type sunk exclusively by American aircraft while under way) and being credited for sinking 30 submarines. Greatly modified after the war, it remained in use until the 1960s.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

W. Eugene Smith, American (1918-1978) 'Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan' June 1944

 

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918-1978)
Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan
June 1944
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, gift of Will Michels in honor of Anne Wilkes Tucker
© Estate of W. Eugene Smith / Black Star

 

 

Aftermath

11. Aftermath, with four subsections, features photographs taken after the battle has ended. “Death on the battlefield is one of the earliest types of war images: Felice Beato photographed the dead in the interior of Fort Taku in the Second Opium War (1860). George Strock’s Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea (1943), which ran in Life magazine with personal details about the casualties, was the first published photograph from any conflict of American dead in World War II. In 1966, Associated Press photographer Henri Huet documented an American paratrooper, who was killed in action, being raised to an evacuation helicopter. Incinerated Iraqi, Gulf War, Iraq, taken by Kenneth Jarecke, was published in Europe, but the American Associated Press editors withheld it in the United States. Shell Shock and Exhaustion shows impenetrable exhaustion after battle. In Don McCullin’s Shell-shocked soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line, Hué, Vietnam (1968), the man looks forward with the “thousand-yard stare.” Robert Attebury photographed Marines so exhausted after a 2005 battle in Iraq that lasted 17 hours that they fell asleep where they had been standing, amid the rubble of a destroyed building. Grief and Battlefield Burials were taken at the site of the conflict, including David Turnley’s 1991 picture of a weeping soldier who has just learned that the remains in a nearby body bag are those of a close friend. Destruction of Property shows collateral damage from war. Christophe Agou, for instance, photographed the smouldering steel remains of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001. (39 images)

 

George Strock. 'Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea' January 1943

 

George Strock (American, 1911-1977)
Dead GIs on Buna Beach, New Guinea
January 1943
© George Strock / LIFE

 

Henri Huet, French (1927-1971) 'The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam' 1966

 

Henri Huet (French, 1927-1971)
The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam
1966
Gelatin silver print (printed 2004)
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase
© AP / Wide World Photos

 

Kenneth Jarecke. 'Gulf War: Incinerated Iraqi soldier in personnel carrier' Nasiriyah, Iraq, March1991

 

Kenneth Jarecke (American, b. 1963)
Gulf War: Incinerated Iraqi soldier in personnel carrier
Nasiriyah, Iraq, March1991

 

Felice Beato. 'Angle of North Taku Fort at which the French entered' August 21-22, 1860

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Angle of North Taku Fort at which the French entered
August 21-22, 1860

 

Don McCullin. 'Shell-shocked US soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line' Hue, Vietnam, 1968

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Shell-shocked US soldier awaiting transportation away from the front line
Hue, Vietnam, 1968
© Don McCullin

 

David Turnley. 'American Soldier Grieving for Comrade' Iraq, 1991

 

David Turnley (American, b. 1955)
American Soldier Grieving for Comrade
Iraq, 1991

 

Ken Kozakiewicz (left) breaks down in an evacuation helicopter after hearing that his friend, the driver of his Bradley Fighting Vehicle, was killed in a “friendly fire” incident that he himself survived. Michael Tsangarakis (centre) suffers severe burns from ammunition rounds that blew up inside the vehicle during the incident. All of the soldiers were exposed to depleted uranium as a result of the explosion. They and the body of the dead man are on their way to a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital).

 

 

Prisoners of War (Civilian and Military)/Interrogation

12. Prisoners of War (Civilian and Military)/Interrogation is a frequently photographed subject because such pictures can be made outside an area of conflict. Moreover, the people in control often documented their prisoners as a show of power. The photographs in this section include the official recording of a prisoner of war before his execution by the Khmer Rouge, taken by Nhem Ein. (14 images)

 

Nhem Ein, Cambodian (born 1959) 'Untitled (prisoner #389 of the Khmer Rouge; man)' 1975-79

 

Nhem Ein (Cambodian , born 1959)
Untitled (prisoner #389 of the Khmer Rouge; man)
1975-79
Gelatin silver print (printed 1994)
Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art; Arthur M. Bullowa Fund and Geraldine Murphy Fund. Digital image
© The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA Art Resource, NY. Used with permission of Photo Archive Group

 

 

Iwo Jima

13. Iwo Jima is a case study within the exhibition that presents the complete thematic narrative in photographs from a specific battle. Included in this section is the inspiration for the exhibition: Joe Rosenthal’s iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, a photograph he took as an Associated Press photographer in World War II showing U.S. Marines and one Navy medic raising the American flag on the remote Pacific island. (25 images)

 

Joe Rosenthal, American (1911-2006) 'Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima' February 23, 1945

 

Joe Rosenthal (American, 1911-2006)
Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima
February 23, 1945
Gelatin silver print
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Manfred Heiting Collection, gift of the Kevin and Lesley Lilly Family
© AP / Wide World Photos

 

Exhibition posting continued in Part 2…

 

 

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

Opening hours:
Wednesday 11.00 am – 5.00 pm
Thursday 11.00 am – 9.00pm
Friday, Saturday 11.00am – 6.00pm
Sunday 12.30 – 6.00pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 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, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor 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.

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Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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