Posts Tagged ‘Vietnam

08
May
13

Exhibition: ‘Gilles Caron, The Conflict Within’ at The Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 30th January – 12th May 2013

 

Gilles Caron. 'Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

Dead at 30

Died so young

Probably at the barrel of a snub nosed gun.

Guilt, narcissism, parody or irony

Doesn’t matter now

He’s dead…

Photos live on

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Many thankx to the Musée de l’Elysée Lausanne for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Transport of a victim of the famine of the Civil War in Biafra, July 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Transport of a victim of the famine of the Civil War in Biafra, July 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Demonstration at the first anniversary of the Soviet repression of "Spring in Prague", Czechoslovakia, 21 August, 1969' 1969

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Demonstration at the first anniversary of the Soviet repression of “Spring in Prague”, Czechoslovakia, 21 August, 1969
1969
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'American Patrol during the Vietnam War 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
American Patrol during the Vietnam War 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Israeli Soldiers at the Wailing Wall at the end of the Six Day War in 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Israeli Soldiers at the Wailing Wall at the end of the Six Day War in 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'General Moshe Dayan June 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
General Moshe Dayan June 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

Visual memory of an epoch, Gilles Caron (1939-1970) has chronicled the greatest contemporary conflicts through his images (Six-Day War, Vietnam War, Biafra and Northern Ireland conflicts, May 68, Prague Spring…), a commitment that eventually cost him his life while on assignment in Cambodia. Called up as a parachutist to serve in the Algerian War, Caron became a witness to the brutality inflicted on civilians. Through photojournalism, he sought to cross to the other side in order to contribute to a better understanding of how populations caught up in the spiral of war were living.

His initial heroic vision of war photography soon turned into a reflection on the purpose of his job: can the role of witness, mere spectator, be satisfying? He is one of the first photographers to suffer symptoms from this inner moral conflict, and one of the first to practice a form of introspective disenchantment that led the reporter to gradually turn his camera on him, to become the object of the photographic narrative.

In the early stages of his career, during the Six-Day War and in Vietnam, he chose to focus on inactive figures, soldiers or prisoners absorbed in their thoughts, writing or meditating. During the Biafra War, Caron seemed particularly compassionate for the condition of children and other victims. In May 68 and in Northern Ireland, he was mainly interested in emblematic actors – demonstrators throwing stones or Molotov cocktails – as incarnations of urban guerilla. His inventiveness was never more visible than in his reports on street fighting where, through his lens, demonstrations seemed transformed into choreographies.

A war reporter, regularly exposed to extreme conditions, Caron was however not indifferent to the spectacle of the sixties, the Nouvelle Vague and the young musical scene. He would on occasion photograph on the film sets of Godard or Truffaut and even worked as a fashion photographer. These ventures into cinema and fashion might seem quite remote from the rest of his work but they clearly influenced his formal language, as demonstrated in his reports on the protests in the Latin Quarter or Ulster. The exhibition ends with an anti-heroic portrait of the photojournalist. Essential for the history of photojournalism, this conclusion proves that Caron’s conscience, along that of other photojournalists, became quite an unhappy one at the end of the 60s. Guilt, narcissism, parody or irony… In the end, it is difficult to figure out what image of themselves reporters are making.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November - December 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Battle of Dak To, Vietnam, November – December 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Daniel Cohn-Bendit facing a CRS in front of the Sorbonne, Paris, 6 May 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Daniel Cohn-Bendit facing a CRS in front of the Sorbonne, Paris, 6 May 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité

The Compagnies républicaines de sécurité, abbreviated CRS, are the general reserve of the French National Police. They are primarily involved in general security missions but the task for which they are best known is crowd and riot control.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Protest rue Saint-Jacques, Paris, 6 May 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

The exhibition presented at the Musée de l’Elysée is Caron’s first major retrospective. Comprising 150 prints and archival documents from the Fondation Gilles Caron, the collection of the Musée de l’Elysée and private collections, the exhibition is an opportunity to rediscover in six parts one of the major photojournalists of the 20th century through an original approach.

1. Heroism

Here and Now: Named the “French Capa” by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Caron’s images highlighting the different scenes of military operations are evidence to his audacity and talents as a reporter.

2. Making History?

The contemplative soldier: This section illustrates a recurring theme in Caron’s work of individuals who are absorbed, and/or made fragile and vulnerable by their surrounding events: military prisoners, civilian victims, soldiers shown reading or in reflection, become iconographic images of unedited, and spontaneous moments of stillness.

3. Sympathy

Compassionate Icons: In these photographs, beginning with the war in Biafra and extending across Caron’s travels one sees the deep sensibility of the photographer unfold in his images as Caron must face the very real pain of others. The images of children, starving and void of childhood innocence whom have been sacrificed in conflict mark the beginning of concerned photographic iconography.

4. Demonstrations and guerrilla

The iconography of revolt: In the images of revolt, be that workers, farmers, or students, Caron gives particular iconic importance to the figure of the “lanceur”: like David against Goliath. This representation of the body in action is like a repeated choreography which is performed spontaneously across the fronts of rebellion in Paris, on May 1968, Londonderry (Northern Ireland) and Prague.

5. Nouvelle Vague

Young and passionate in the 60s: In addition to his work in areas of conflict, famine, and war, Caron also gives photography a unique view of the youth of the 1960’s. With images of famous muses (actresses and singers) as well as of university students, and youth on the street, Caron shows his talents for fashion photography and film stills developed during his work with Truffaut and Godard.

6. The last image

Looking at the reporter: After Biafra and Chad, doubt took hold of Caron. The lens of the camera turns back upon the reporter, and these images document the work of the photojournalist in the field. These portraits leave viewers with a mixed message, this is his own profession but the images are in no way heroic portrayals of the work of the photojournalist.

 

Gilles Caron. 'Civil War in Biafra, Nigeria, November 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Civil War in Biafra, Nigeria, November 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Vietnam, November 1967' 1967

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Vietnam, November 1967
1967
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

Gilles Caron. 'Filmmaker and photographer Raymond Depardon, during the Civil War in Biafra, Nigéria, August 1968' 1968

 

Gilles Caron (French, 1939-1970)
Filmmaker and photographer Raymond Depardon, during the Civil War in Biafra, Nigéria, August 1968
1968
© Fondation Gilles Caron

 

 

The Musée de l’Elysée 
18, avenue de l’Elysée
CH – 1014 Lausanne
Phone: + 41 21 316 99 11

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Sunday, 11am – 6pm
Closed Monday, except for bank holidays

The Musée de l’Elysée website

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10
Apr
13

Exhibition: ‘Don McCullin: A Retrospective’ at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

Exhibition dates: 1st February – 14th April 2013

 

Don McCullin. 'Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland' 1971

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Catholic youth escaping a CS gas assault in the Bogside, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
1971
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

 

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures”

“You do not go away from here without carrying a huge burden, if you are a decent human being and you have a conscience.”

“I photograph the humble, the anonymous, who are spontaneous and mirror all of us.”

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Don McCullin, Sleeping With Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography

 

 

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

 

 

Don McCullin. 'US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
US marine throwing grenade, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus' 1964

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Turkish defender leaving the side-entrance of a cinema, Limassol, Cyprus
1964
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Protester, Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London' 1962

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Protester, Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London
1962
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin' August 1961

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
American soldiers, Checkpoint Charlie, West Berlin
August 1961
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

 

For the first time ever, the National Gallery of Canada is organising an monographic exhibition dedicated to the work of a contemporary British photographer. Don McCullin: A Retrospective features a collection of 134 exceptional black-and-white photographs taken by McCullin, an unflinching photojournalist best known for his coverage of the world’s most dangerous conflict zones. His photographs have been published in major newspapers and magazines, including The Observer, The Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. McCullin has also created an important body of social documentary work and a series of lyrical landscapes in his native Britain. Several of these photographs are included in the exhibition, which will be on display until April 14, 2013 in the NGC’s Prints, Drawings and Photographs Galleries. “McCullin’s photographs belong in an art gallery because they consistently bring clarity and compositional grace to their compelling subject matter. These pictures are both hard to look at and hard not to.” said NGC director and CEO Marc Mayer.

Don McCullin: A Retrospective highlights works from all of McCullin’s major series: portraits of the poor and the homeless in London and northern England (1950s to 1980s); the construction of the Berlin Wall (1961); war and famine in Cyprus, the Congo, Biafra, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland (1964-1982); peoples of Southeast Asia and Africa (1988-2004); and landscapes in Somerset, England, and northern France (1970-2011). In this exhibition, the artist’s journey from working class England to the killing fields and to the landscape of Arthurian myth reveals his searing outrage and profound compassion. Also included are magazines and newspapers relating to past assignments.

McCullin covered war zones on four continents, primarily from the 1960s to the 1980s. His photographs from the battlefields belong to a tradition of war art practiced by Francisco de Goya, Otto Dix and photographer Robert Capa, artists who, like himself, sought to communicate in images the horrors of human conflict. Particularly compelling for their narrative depth, sombre lighting and powerful composition, McCullin’s photographs convey the intensity and intimacy of his human encounters. His landscapes, although also dark and brooding, speak to his desire to distance himself from the subject of human suffering.

Although, McCullin did travel to Syria recently for The Times on one final war assignment (these photographs are not included in the exhibition), his exposure to the worst human atrocities took such a toll on him that he more or less retreated from conflict zones beginning in the 1980s. McCullin does not like being called a war photographer. Nor does he think of himself as an artist, but rather as a photojournalist, or simply, a photographer. In her insightful essay in the exhibition catalogue, Sobey Curatorial Assistant Katherine Stauble writes of the war photographs: “Likely (these images) were not meant to hang on a gallery wall, but rather, to communicate information, to reveal truths and to mobilise action. Now that McCullin has escaped the battlefield and for the past twenty years has been focusing his lens on landscape and still life, one might expect the artist moniker to sit more comfortably with him.

Press release from the National Gallery of Canada website

 

Don McCullin. 'The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London' 1958

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
The Guvnors, Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'At a café in Finsbury Park, London' 1958

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
At a café in Finsbury Park, London
1958
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images
Photo © NGC

 

Don McCullin. 'Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1984, printed c. 1985

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Jean, a homeless woman, Aldgate, East End, London
1984, printed c. 1985
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London' 1970

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Homeless Irishman, Aldgate, East End, London
1970
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

Don McCullin. 'Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam' February 1968

 

Don McCullin (British, b. 1935)
Old Vietnamese man, Tet Offensive, Hué, South Vietnam
February 1968
Gelatin silver print
© Don McCullin / Contact Press Images

 

 

National Gallery of Canada
380 Sussex Dr  Ottawa
ON K1N 9N4, Canada
Phone: +1 613-990-1985

Opening hours:
Sunday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Monday Closed
Tuesday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Wednesday 10.00 am – 5.00pm
Thursday 10.00a – 8.00pm
Friday 10.00am – 5.00pm
Saturday 10.00am – 5.00pm

National Gallery of Canada website

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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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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. 1940-45), 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

 

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 (Portuguese-born South African, 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.

 

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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01
Oct
12

Exhibition: ‘Lutz Bacher / MATRIX 242’ at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA), University of California, Berkeley, San Francisco

Exhibition dates: 18th July – 7th October 2012

 

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

 

 

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

 

Lutz Bacher (American, 1943-2019)
Bien Hoa (detail)
2006-07
inkjet print mounted on aluminum
24 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

 

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

 

Lutz Bacher (American, 1943-2019)
Bien Hoa (detail)
2006-07
inkjet print mounted on aluminum
24 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

 

 

Since Lutz Bacher’s first MATRIX exhibition in 1993, the Berkeley-based artist has become a leading figure in contemporary art; she was the subject of a retrospective at MoMA PS1 in 2009 and was included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. MATRIX 242 presents an important but rarely seen series from 2006-07 that sheds light on the artist’s often elusive practice.

Bien Hoa is is based on a set of ten photographs Bacher discovered at a Berkeley salvage store. All of the photographs were created by an American soldier named Walter, who was stationed at Bien Hoa Air Base during the Vietnam War. Walter inscribed the backs of all but two of the pictures before mailing them home to his partner in Oakland. Bacher has enlarged and reprinted the photographs to hang above the verso of the originals, which disclose Walter’s annotations. These have a surprisingly casual tone, given what must have been the harrowing experience of being a soldier stationed in Vietnam. In some cases, Walter’s inscriptions sound almost like a tourist writing a postcard; in others, he seems to have been more concerned with the composition of the image than with the grisly content of a scene. “This is Bien Hoa looking at it from the Air Base. This is a pretty good picture. Now do you think that’s beautiful? Can you see the wire, keeping the people from attacking the Air Base? That’s what those fences are out there for.”

By strategically juxtaposing these images and texts, and placing them in a museum setting, Bacher reveals the slippery nature of perception. She prompts us to wonder, Why was Walter so concerned with the quality of his images? Why were these photographs discarded? What became of Walter?”

Text from the BAM/PFA website

 

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

 

Lutz Bacher (American, 1943-2019)
Bien Hoa (detail)
2006-07
inkjet print mounted on aluminum
24 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

 

 

The ten photographic sets that make up Lutz Bacher’s Bien Hoa (2006-07) are deceptively simple. Large colour inkjet images, reproductions of yellowed black-and-­white photographs, are presented above handwritten notes written on the backs of the original prints. The annotations were made by a man stationed at Vietnam’s Bien Hoa Air Force Base in 1969, identified only as Walter, who is alternately the author and the subject of the images. We see Walter posing at a military desk with his section chief, in an armed helicopter adorned with a playboy bunny, in front of sand ­bagged barracks, and at gunpoint, “surrendering” to a Vietnamese woman. Other photographs depict the bleak situation – burned-out helicopters, fire drills, and fences separating the base from the local town. Bacher found the cache of photographs, which had been mailed from Vietnam, at a Berkeley salvage store. Originally meant for an intimate audience, the photos are displaced by Bacher’s decision to remake them as her art. She channels the voice of an African American man fighting in the Vietnam War, decisively situating that voice, through her own authorship, in a new time and context.

On their own, the images are charged with America’s uneasy history of armed aggression and recall our complex legacy of racism and popular unrest; with Walter’s notes, however, that general discomfort becomes deeply personal. Referring to an image of himself seated inside a helicopter he writes: “This is a Huey Cobra, the badest [sic] Helicopter in Vietnam. Those are rockets on the side of the ship. I wish I could take off and come home. Your Man, Walter.” With his comments, Walter reveals feelings of complicity in the military apparatus of the war, as well as his desire to return home. It is hard not to wonder how Walter wound up in Vietnam and what became of him: was he drafted or enlisted by the many recruiters targeting African American neighbourhoods at the time, promising subsidies? Did he return home safely?

Presented, as they are here, in a museum setting, Walter’s self-conscious commentaries on his photographs take on new relevance. In some cases, Walter’s inscriptions sound almost like a tourist writing a postcard; in others, he seems to have been more concerned with the composition of the image than with the grisly content of a scene: “This is a practice session that the Fire Department has every now and then. They are practicing on a burning helicopter. I messed up on my border at the top of the picture.” Bacher’s enlargements invite us to hone in on these details and scrutinise the photographs aesthetically, as Walter directs: “This is Bien Hoa looking at it from the Air Base. This is a pretty good picture. Now do you think that’s beautiful? Can you see the wire, keeping the people from attacking the Air Base?” Walter’s grim interjections foil our sense of detached aesthetic judgment.

Likewise, Bacher, conspiring with Walter, complicates easy explanations of her work. Curiously, the only two photographs in the series that remain unannotated feature a gun. In the first, Walter poses solemnly in front of sandbagged barracks in full military uniform. In the second, he is dressed in Vietnamese garb, playfully surrendering at gunpoint to a local woman. This reversal, from American soldier to Vietnamese prisoner, illustrates not only the paradox of Walter’s situation, but also Bacher’s. Without captions to describe Walter’s feelings, it is unclear if he fought willingly or if, like many soldiers at that time, he was ambivalent about our presence in Vietnam, or perhaps even sympathized with the local’s desire to enact political change. Faced with these gaps in explanation, viewers are left to wonder about Walter’s intentions in setting up the photographs as he did, with this strange role reversal. The reasons for Bacher’s own reversal, exchanging her voice for Walter’s, is also left ambiguous.

Shifting between Walter, of whom nothing is known, and Bacher, Bien Hoa’s narrative refuses to be fixed in any one time or place. For that reason, the work feels contemporary, alive with the contradictions that make up our present moment. Bacher uses found images, objects, and text to confound easy understandings of authorship, gender, race, violence, and power. Despite being composed of discarded photographs, Bien Hoa resonates as a pivotal description of a fraught moment in United States history, yet this history still feels open to interpretation. Bacher, exhuming the photographs and aligning her voice with Walter’s, inverts any sense of their cohesion.”

Dena Beard
Assistant Curator
Exhibition brochure

 

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

 

Lutz Bacher (American, 1943-2019)
Bien Hoa (detail)
2006-07
inkjet print mounted on aluminum
24 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

 

Lutz Bacher. 'Bien Hoa' 2006-07 (detail)

 

Lutz Bacher (American, 1943-2019)
Bien Hoa (detail)
2006-07
inkjet print mounted on aluminum
24 x 36 in.
Courtesy of Ratio 3, San Francisco

 

 

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

BAMPFA is located at 2155 Center Street
between Oxford Street and Shattuck Avenue, in downtown Berkeley
Phone: (510) 642-0808

Opening hours:
Thursday – Sunday, 11am – 7pm
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

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

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