Posts Tagged ‘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 (2003-4) 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 (2003-04)

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 (2005-14)

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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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?'”

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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.”

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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.”

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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.”

 

 

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29
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21

Photographs: ‘The “Green Ticket” roundup – first roundup of Jews in France during World War II’, Memorial de la Shoah, Paris

May 2021

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men are parked in the stands upstairs. The centre of the gymnasium is emptied. Only police officers circulate. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the summoned Jews have entered the mousetrap. We see for the first time the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together.

 

 

Death, duplicity and dishonour

Recently discovered at a Normandy flea market, these photographs by German photographer Harry Croner are taken from 5 contact sheets of 35mm negatives (probably taken on a Leica or similar). These documentary photographs are efficient, well seen, silent and in light of subsequent events… eloquent and emotional. They depict the first roundup of French Jews in Paris on May 14, 1941 at the Japy Gymnasium and a day later at the internment camps into which they were placed.

Lured to several places across the city in a pre-planned trap, Jews were “summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities… As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.”

Today, we know that these images are probably the last photographs of these men alive that were ever taken. They were held in the internment camps for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. A year later during the “during the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp”

In collusion with and at the behest of their Nazi overlords, this was not the French government’s finest hour.

The roundup – overseen by the Germans, supervised by government officials (through the General Commissariat for Jewish Affairs, created by the Vichy State in March 1941 and run by fascist and anti-Semite Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, Commissioner-General for Jewish Affairs), enforced by the French police – was undertaken with alacrity, complicity and a ruthless efficiency.

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The ironic aspect of these photographs is that Harry Croner, the German Army photographer, was soon after kicked out of the German Army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish. “In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.” So Croner ended up in the very place, a concentration camp, which he depicted so efficiently a few years earlier.

The head of the museum’s photography department Lior Lalieu-Smadja has wondered whether this knowledge of his Jewish father made Croner capture these Jewish men in a more humane light than other propaganda photographs of the same event. In an emotional sense I would say “yes” to this question, but in a technical sense, I do not think so. I don’t think the knowledge of his heritage would have influenced the aesthetic and pictorial construction of the images. In the photographs we can observe a wonderful balance within the picture frame – the use of strong intersectional points, the use of diagonals (the angle of the buses in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station), the use of near to far, the massing of bodies in crowd scenes, the use of flash, evidence of the decisive moment (Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station) as the gendarme and the man turn to look at the camera coupled with the attitude of the man’s leg as he kisses his partner goodbye, and the use of the punctum in the image… the couple sitting on the stairs at top right in Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941; the boy with his hands in his pockets in Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons; and the women staring out of the window of the Boutique à Louer at far right in Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station, reminiscent of the ghostly faces of men pictured by Eugène Atget staring out of the windows of Parisian bars and cafés.

But above all these are now, today, emotional photographs, ultimately a memorialisation of the soon to be dead, photographs of people that we know are soon to be dead. They are gut wrenching in their simplicity, heart wrenching in their emotional power – the anguish of the women, that last kiss, the stoicism and calm of the men – as we trace the journey of the condemned. We can literally follow the route of one unknown man (see the first three images below) to his known fate.

A final thought enters my head… would Croner have still been in the German Army for the rest of the war, part of the Nazi war machine, if it was not discovered that his father was Jewish? Would he have hidden that fact in order to survive while at the same time serving the fascists even as they killed his own kind? The paradox of this seemingly absurd and contradictory proposition, might have been undeniable.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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All photographs digitally cleaned and balanced by Dr Marcus Bunyan. Many thankx to the Memorial de la Shoah for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

5 contact sheets were recently discovered by the Shoah Memorial, retracing photo after photo of the fate of the Jews summoned by the “green ticket round-up”, the context of the raid, the German and French sponsors and especially the families excluded until now from the known propaganda photos of this roundup. While the press echoed it at the time, the official images were intended to be dehumanising and humiliating for these foreign Jews. The emotion and the dismay of these families, shown in these photos, are a rare illustration of the Shoah in France.

 

 

“Pure evil operates tidily, silently and seems so stylish.”

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Jane Silberman

 

“The French gendarmes had licence to slap, beat, kick, whip, or insult any prisoner who broke the [Drancy] camp rules, but since these rules were never published it meant that they could ill-treat whomever they wanted whenever they wanted – and, with one or two honourable exceptions, this is just what they did. In 1942, when there were female and male prisoners in the camp, the French commandant of the camp, Marcelin Vieux, was seen whipping a woman for being too slow to move away from the middle of the yard. Another inmate remembered Vieux punching inmates and beating them with his truncheon. He also vividly recalled his two violently anti-Semitic French subordinates, who never went on patrol without their truncheons at the ready. Dr. Falkenstein, another prisoner, saw one of these men hit a four-year-old girl so hard that he knocked her unconscious.”

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David Drake. ‘Paris at War: 1939-1944’. Harvard University Press, 2015, p. 209.

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Never-before-seen photos going on display in Paris this week shine a light on a dark moment in France’s role in rounding up Jews to send to Nazi death camps during World War II. The “green ticket round-up” was first carried out in Paris on May 14 and 15, 1941, with more than 6,000 foreign-born Jews summoned to town halls across the city for what was billed as routine registration. Instead, the 3,747 men who showed up were arrested by the French authorities and shipped to camps south of Paris. Thousands more were rounded up in the following months.

They were held there for a year before being deported to the Auschwitz death camp.

By chance, a stash of 98 photos from the first green ticket round-up, taken by a German soldier on propaganda duty, were recently discovered by the Memorial de la Shoah, the Holocaust Museum of Paris.

Most were taken at the Japy sports hall in the city’s 11th arrondissement, where close to 1,000 were arrested, and where the photos are being put on display from Friday, exactly 80 years on. One shows SS officer Theodor Dannecker, who was in charge of implementing the “Final Solution” in France, alongside French police commissioner Francois Bard in the hall. Others show couples embracing outside, unaware that they would never see each other again.

“These photos are important because we see the opposite of Nazi propaganda that tried to depict these people as sub-human ‘parasites’,” said Lior Lalieu-Smadja, who heads the museum’s photography department. Was that a deliberate move by the photographer? “One has to wonder,” said Lalieu-Smadja, not least because the photographer was identified as Harry Croner, who was soon after kicked out of the German army after it was discovered that his father was Jewish.

The photos were bought years ago by an antiques dealer in Normandy who had found them at a flea market. He pulled them out of storage recently and contacted the museum, who informed him they were the only known pictures from the infamous round-up. Little else is known about the photos’ journey.

“The only thing we know for certain is that once they were taken, they were sent directly to Berlin. The photographer himself could not keep them, which makes this discovery even more incredible,” said Lalieu-Smadja.

Press release from the Memorial de la Shoah website

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Inside the Japy Gymnasium, Paris XI, place of arrest of foreign Jews on May 14, 1941]
May 14, 1941

 

 

A German delegation with SS Theodor Dannecker, responsible for Jewish affairs in France, and French led by the prefect of police François Bard, comes to inspect the operation.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men. They are asked to come back with some things for 2 to 3 days. The reasons given are the same: “examination of the situation”.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: relatives, often wives and their children, are asked to separate from the summoned men] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons and are received by the police who guard the entrance to the gymnasium. Women with children arrive with suitcases and packages. The following scenes show them standing in line and waiting their turn to hand over the suitcases.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: some men still arrive carrying their summons] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy gymnasium: families waiting to hand over the suitcases to their loved ones]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Green Ticket roundup: The Shoah Memorial discovers a previously unpublished photo-reportage

The Shoah Memorial announces the recent acquisition of five contact sheets, totalling 98 photographs. This as yet unreleased photo-reportage accurately details every step of the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris by the French police forces on the orders of the German authorities 80 years ago, on May 14, 1941.

 

The discovery in detail

The Shoah Memorial has purchased five contact sheets – documenting the location of the roundup known as the “Green Ticket” on May 14, 1941 – from two specialised collectors. The contact sheets acquired by the Memorial, numbered 182 to 187 (contact sheet 185 is missing), represent 98 photographs. The photographer’s five rolls of film provide a reality that differs greatly from the photos released by the collaborationist press alone. For the first time, the location of the arrests as well as the protagonists of the roundup are captured from multiple angles. Dehumanised until then by propaganda and even completely erased from reportages, the families of the detainees are shown during their emotional farewells, before the very eyes of onlookers and neighbours. The most important element of this discovery, which is indispensable to history and to the duty of remembrance, allows us to follow the trajectory of these rounded-up men, from their arrival at the Japy gymnasium – the site of the trap, in Paris – up to their internment in the camps of the Loiret.

 

What the photographs reveal

The 98 photographs printed on contact sheets give a chronological, step-by-step run-down of the roundup.

  1. The first images show the protagonists of the roundup engaged in a discussion inside the Japy gymnasium. The two German and French sponsors are perfectly recognisable:
    – Théodor Dannecker (1913-1945), who represents Eichmann in France and heads Section IV J of the Gestapo, in charge of Jewish affairs
    – Admiral François Bard (1889-1944), the recently appointed Prefect of the Paris Police
  2. The Japy photo series: the arrested men are confined to the upper floor bleachers. The first stage of the roundup has already taken place: the Jews who have been summoned have entered the trap. These as yet unreleased photos show the interior of Japy and the hundreds of Jewish men crowded together, as well as those accompanying them, often their wives
  3. The exterior of Japy: men are still arriving carrying their summons and are received by the police officers at the entrance to the gymnasium. They bid farewell to their families while a line of women and children is formed. They wait to hand over clothes to their loved ones
  4. The neighbourhood is closed off. Neighbours are at their windows. Families are pushed to the back of the street and wait to hear from their loved one. They have anguished faces. The police blocks the street, then evacuates it
  5. Men of all ages who have been arrested come out one by one, watched over by police officers and carrying their belongings, board buses parked just outside the gymnasium, rue Japy
  6. The arrival at the Paris-Austerlitz railway station through the rear entrance to the station
  7. At Pithiviers, a previously unpublished view of the black hangar – of which there were no images until now – during the internment of the Jews, which will subsequently serve as the registration centre for the Vel’ d’Hiv’ detainees and for deportations

 

The “Green Ticket” roundup: first roundup of Jews in France during World War II

The “Green Ticket” Roundup is the first mass arrest of Jews in Paris, and it takes place on Wednesday May 14, 1941. These unsuspecting men, mainly foreigners from Eastern Europe are summoned on Wednesday morning by the Police Prefecture with a “green ticket” for a “status review” and asked to be accompanied by a relative or friend.

The men, most of them family men who were army volunteers at the beginning of the war and therefore fought for France, expect a verification of their status. Fleeing antisemitism and persecutions in their countries of origin – Poland, USSR, Romania, Czechoslovakia – and believing that they will find refuge in the land of freedom, they are arrested chiefly because they are Jewish and foreigners.

Several assembly points are indicated on the “green tickets”: the Caserne Napoléon (in the 4th arrondissement), the Caserne des Minimes (in the 3rd arrondissement), 52 rue Edouard Pailleron (in the 19th arrondissement), 33 rue de la Grange-aux-belles (in the 10th arrondissement) and the Japy gymnasium (in the 11th arrondissement) as well as other centres in the arrondissement police stations and Paris suburbs.

As far as the Japy gymnasium is concerned, 1,061 Jews are summoned at 7.00 am; 800 respond to the summons. When they arrive, they are checked and detained inside the gymnasium. The person accompanying them is asked to go to their home and return with a suitcase containing their personal belongings.

After that, the 3,700 arrested Jews are taken to the Paris-Austerlitz railway station in special buses, under the supervision of French police officers, and interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps (in the Loiret). They spend more than a year there before being deported directly to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp by Convoy #4 on June 25, 1942, #5 on June 28, 1942 and #6 on July 17, 1942. During the Vel’ d’Hiv’ Roundup of July 16 and 17, 1942, it is the families’ turn to be arrested and detained in these same camps before their deportation to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp between July and September 1942.

 

Propoganda photographs

As of the Armistice on June 25, 1940, the press is muzzled in France by the German occupier, and press photography is placed under censorship control. The Propaganda Kompanie (PK), set up within the Wehrmacht, is made up of photographers, cameramen, radio and press reporters, who are equipped with high-performance photographic material. This unit, under the direct control of Germany’s Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, is in charge of documenting the historic dimension of the military effort and producing propaganda reports for foreign countries, for the press and for domestic agencies.

 

The Shoah Memorial

The Shoah Memorial, Europe’s largest archives center dedicated to the history of the Shoah, is a place of remembrance, of education and of transmission on the history of the genocide of the Jews during World War II in Europe. Today it incorporates five sites: the Shoah Memorial in Paris and the Shoah Memorial in Drancy, the Lieu de mémoire du Chambon-sur-Lignon (Haute-Loire), the CERCIL Musée – Mémorial des Enfants du Vel d’Hiv (Loiret), and the Centre culturel Jules Isaac de Clermont-Ferrand (Puy-de-Dôme).

Opened to the public on January 27, 2005 in the historic Marais district, the Paris site provides multiple spaces and an awareness program catering to all audiences: a permanent exhibition on the Holocaust and the history of the Jews in France during World War II; a temporary exhibition space; an auditorium programming screenings and symposia; The Wall of Names on which the names of 76,000 Jewish men, women and children deported from France between 1942 and 1944 as part of the “Final Solution” are engraved; the documentation center (50 million archive materials and 1,500 sound archives, 350,000 photographs, 3,900 drawings and objects, 12,000 posters and postcards, 30,000 cinema documents, 14,500 movie titles including 2,500 testimonials, and 80,000 books) and its reading room; educational spaces where children’s workshops and activities for classrooms and teachers take place; a specialty bookstore.

Better understanding the history of the Holocaust is also aimed at preventing the return of hatred and all forms of intolerance today. The Memorial has also been working for more than a decade on education programs focusing on other genocides of the 20th century, such as the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, or the Armenian genocide.

Press release from the Shoah Memorial

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: the arrested men peer outside the upper windows of the gymnasium]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Japy Gymnasium: men arrested awaiting their fate in the mousetrap that the Japy gymnasium has become] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]
May 14, 1941

 

 

The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours and the unusual emotion that reigns around the Japy gymnasium.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The inhabitants of the district discover the fate of their now captive neighbours] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)

West Berlin stage: Harry Croner’s photographs from four decades

For 40 years, press photographer Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) accompanied life in Halbstadt with his camera: the reconstruction and creation of new landmarks, large and small events, celebrities from culture and politics, especially what happened on the city’s stages. His acquaintance with many artists living and visiting Berlin made it possible for him to take impressive snapshots and portraits. Croner’s photographic work, which is being presented for the first time with this selection, is the chronicle of an era and at the same time an homage to a small island of world politics, which was above all one thing, the big stage for culture.

 

Late career as a photographer

Harry Croner was born on March 16, 1903 in Berlin. From 1920 to 1922 he completed a commercial apprenticeship, worked for various automobile companies as an advertising manager and finally as a travel representative for Bayerische Motorenwerke. When he set up his own photo business in Berlin-Wilmersdorf in 1933, he probably already had a career as a photographer in mind. In addition to selling cameras and accessories, he also took portraits. In 1940 Croner was drafted and came to the Western Front as a war correspondent, but was then dismissed as “unfit for military service” because of his Jewish father. Back in Berlin, he worked in his shop for a while. In 1944, Croner was sent to a labour camp and in March 1945 was taken prisoner by the Americans, from which he was not released until April 1946.

 

The estate

With the support of the Prussian Sea Trade Foundation, the extensive archive (around 100,000 black and white photographs and over 1.3 million negatives) was acquired in February 1989. A representative part of the estate was digitised in 2013, supported by the Digitalization Service of the State of Berlin. Around 8,000 photos are already accessible online.

Text from the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin website [Online] Cited 20/05/2021 translated from the German by Google Translate

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

After a few hours, the men left the scene under police custody and had to board requisitioned buses for transfer to the Austerlitz station.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Arrested men leave the gymnasium by bus for Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Men boarding a train at Austerlitz station for the Loiret camps] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

 

The 3,710 men arrested in Paris at the various summons were transferred to the Austerlitz station to be interned in the Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande camps. Four convoys of passenger wagons are formed, two convoys with 2140 men to the camp of Beaune-la-Rolande and two convoys with 1570 men to that of Pithiviers. These convoys arrive on the afternoon of May 14.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]
May 14, 1941

 

 

Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station. His presence in the photos in this roundup shows that he followed and supervised the entire roundup.

 

 

Theodor Dannecker (German, 1913-1945)

Theodor Dannecker (German, 27 March 1913 – 10 December 1945) was an SS-captain (Hauptsturmführer), and an associate of Adolf Eichmann. As a specialist on Nazi anti-Jewish policies (Judenberater), he was one of those who orchestrated the Final Solution in several countries during the World War II genocide of European Jews in what became known as the Holocaust … In December 1945, Dannecker was arrested by the United States Army, and, on 10 December, he committed suicide in Bad Tölz. …

From September 1940 until July 1942, Dannecker was leader of the Judenreferat at the SD office in Paris, where he ordered and oversaw round ups by French Police. More than 13,000 Jews were deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where most died in the Final Solution. …

Dannecker developed under Eichmann into one of the SS’s most ruthless and experienced experts on the “Jewish Question”, and his involvement in the genocide of European Jewry was one of primary responsibility. A passage from a 1942 report by Dannecker illustrates how the “Jewish Question” was handled in France:

“Subject: Points for the discussion with the French State Secretary for Police, Bousquet… The recent operation for arresting stateless Jews in Paris has yielded only about 8,000 adults and about 4,000 children. But trains for the deportation of 40,000 Jews, for the moment, have been put in readiness by the Reich Ministry of Transport. Since the deportation of the children is not possible for the time being, the number of Jews ready for removal is quite insufficient. A further Jewish operation must therefore be started immediately. For this purpose Jews of Belgian and Dutch nationality may be taken into consideration, in addition to the former German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Russian Jews who have so far been considered as being stateless. It must be expected, however, that this category will not yield sufficient numbers, and thus the French have no choice but to include those Jews who were naturalised in France after 1927, or even after 1919.”1

Text from the Wikipedia website

  1. “Eichmann trial – The District Court Sessions”. Nizkor Project. 9 May 1961. Retrieved 23 December 2013

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station]' May 14, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Theodor Dannecker oversees the transfer of the rounded up Jews to the Austerlitz station] (detail)
May 14, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The photos were taken the day after the raid at the Pithiviers and Beaune-la Rolande camps. The men had to settle in cold and unsanitary barracks under construction. The straw that will serve as mattresses in the bedsteads is still outside the barracks.

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp]' May 15, 1941 (detail)

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the raid, the men arrested at the Pithiviers camp] (detail)
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d'Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [Green Ticket Roundup, the next day at the Pithiviers camp. The black hut can be seen where the Vel d’Hiv raids will be recorded in 1942]
May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992) 'Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]' May 15, 1941

 

Harry Croner (German, 1903-1992)
Untitled [The day after the roundup of the Billet Vert, a French gendarme posted on a watchtower in the Beaune-la-Rolande camp]
May 15, 1941

 

 

The gendarme to the left of the photo, posted in a watchtower, monitoring the Beaune-la-Rolande camp, is the emblematic photo from the film Nuit et Brouillard, censored when it was released in 1955.

 

 

Nuit Et Brouillard
Alain Resnais
1955

 

 

Memorial de la Shoah
17, rue Geoffroy l’Asnier
75004 Paris
Phone: + 33 (0)1 42 77 44 72

Opening hours:
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Memorial de la Shoah website

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13
Oct
20

Photographs: ‘Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941’ and other WW2 Australian photographs

October 2020

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

These photographs were given to me in an envelope titled “Gunner Andrew Rumann embarkation for Singapore, August 1941”. I have carefully digitally scanned and cleaned them. The attribution seems correct for the first group of photographs in the posting, Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore, but not for the rest. I have located Rumann’s POW record and found several pictures of the ship he would have taken to travel to Singapore.

The other photographs in the posting show Australian armed services personnel (none are American), but there are several anomalies that enable me to say that these are later photographs. Four Australian women personnel stand in front of an American Red Cross sign, and the ARC (or Amcross) did not arrive in Australia until 1942. And in the photograph Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23, the men an women are standing on a US Army transportation barge, unlikely to have been in Australian waters before 1942. Behind them Carley floats hang from their tethers.

As always, what interests me most about these photographs are the details contained within: the casualness of the men waiting at Post Exchange No. 2, with their sandals, singlets and slough hats; the man caught mid-clamber, climbing up into the truck in Taking out the rubbish; the women in dark glasses and hat sheltering her eyes from the sun in BKC*23; the men peering out of the portholes in the same photograph, one with a fag in his mouth.

We can feel the heat emanating from these photographs (it must be summer). All the men are in shorts and topless. In photographs such as Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23 and Embarkation we can admire their lithe bodies, and observe the ubiquitous 1940s mop of curly hair with short back and sides. They were already athletic before departure, but imagine fighting in the stinking hot forests of Burma on Army rations, or ending up in a Japanese prisoner of war camp, with so little meat on the bone to start with. You would be a skeleton before long. Finally, there is one personal sign that you can make out in the crowd seeing off the troops to Singapore from Circular Quay in 1941. “Jim Carr” it reads. Did he survive the war? Who knows.

More than 15,000 Australian soldiers were captured at the fall of Singapore. Of these, more than 7000 would die as prisoners of war, some in transport ships on their way to Japan, sadly torpedoed by Allied submarines. Andrew Rumann survived his trip to Japan as a POW and returned to Australia after the war. He died in 1974 aged 68 years old.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
All photographs have been digitally scanned and cleaned by Marcus Bunyan. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann

Headquarters, Royal Australian Artillery, 8th Division, Australian Imperial Force (AIF)

Service Number – NX26452
Date of birth – 13 Sep 1905
Place of birth – Hungary
Place of enlistment – Paddington NSW
Next of Kin – Rumann, Rena

Malaya, captured at Singapore

Camp: Osaka, Japan

Andrew died in 1974 in Toor, Australia at 68 years old

 

In January 1941 a large component of the Australian Army’s recently raised 8th Division was posted to Malaya. An element of some 6000 men departed Sydney in the liner Queen Mary as part of Convoy US9 on 4 February 1941, arriving in Singapore two weeks later on 18 February. A further 5000 troops in Convoy US11B arrived at Keppel Harbour on 15 August 1941. Under the command of Major General Gordon Bennett, the force initially established its headquarters at Kuala Lumpur. Bennett had urged for specific territorial responsibility for his Division, and this resulted in an area which included Johore and Malacca, coming within his responsibility.

The Australian Army 8th Division in Malaya eventually reached about 15,000 men. An apt description of the commander, Major General Henry (Gordon) Bennett, found in a Veterans’ Affairs publication, (Moremon & Reid 2002) reads:

“A prominent citizen soldier, he had proven himself in World War I to be a fierce fighter and leader, but he was well known for his prickly temperament, argumentative nature and proneness to quarrel. His relations with senior British commanders and staff in Malaya were, at times, strained, as he grappled to maintain control of the Australian troops.”

Bennett’s independent spirit did not fit into the Allied command structure, however his Division generally acquitted themselves well against a seasoned enemy.

Walter Burroughs. “The Naval Evacuation of Singapore – February 1942,” on the Naval Historical Society of Australia website. June 2019 edition of the Naval Historical Review  [Online] Cited 04/09/2020.

 

Convoy US11B

Convoy US11B

Departed Sydney 29/7/1941 – Arrived Fremantle 6/8/1941
Departed Fremantle 8/8/1941 – Arrived Singapore 15/8/1941

Ships: Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt, Katoomba, HMAS Sydney, Marnix Van St. Aldegonde, HMAS Canberra, Sibajak.

In late July 1941 a convoy was organised to transport 8th Division troops to Singapore. The convoy included three Dutch passenger ships, and escort ships from the Royal Australian Navy.

 

Summary of Embarkation for Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (HMT FF)

The following troops embarked Johan Van Oldenbarnevelt at Woolloomooloo, Sydney on 29/7/1941 for the voyage to Singapore.

61524 – 8 Division Artillery

29 men arrived including 3 officers, 1 warrant officer, 3 sergeants, 22 corporals and privates.

(Source: Australian Army War Diary 1/15/14 – District Records Office Eastern Command May – July 1941)

 

Troopship 32 – Voyage 4

She [JVO] departed Sydney on July 17 and headed for Auckland New Zealand where she arrived on July 21 and departed again on the 22nd. She returned to Sydney arriving on July 25 and departed again on the 29th, sailing via Fremantle to Singapore arriving on August 15. End of Troop voyage 4.

 

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941

 

Johan van Oldenbarnevelt on the way to Fremantle, 1/8/1941
Aerial Starboard side view of the Dutch liner Johan van Oldenbarnevelt transporting Australian troops to the Middle East as part of convoy US11B. Note the 4.7 pound gun and 12 pounder AA gun aft
1st August 1941
Australian War Memorial Naval Historical Collection
Public domain

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941

 

Trooper Johan van Oldenbarnevelt is seen departing Wellington New Zealand during Troop Voyage 6 on September 15, 1941 – Note the guns up on the aft section!

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Circular Quay with the Sydney Harbour Trust building at left in the background. The spire is the CQ Fire Station No. 3.

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Andrew Rumann. 'Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore]' 1941 (detail)

 

Andrew Rumann (Australian, 1905-1974)
Untitled [Departure from Circular Quay, Sydney for Fremantle and Singapore] (detail)
1941
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

NX26452 Gunner Andrew Rumann POW entry

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Encampment]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Encampment]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Women standing in front of an American Red Cross sign]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

The American Red Cross (ARC or Amcross) in Australia during WW2 became the largest hotel and restaurant chain in Australia at the time. Amcross was headed by Norman H. Davis with its headquarters in Sydney, NSW. …

Four American women led by Miss Helen Hall arrived in Australia in about late August 1942 to take charge of American Red Cross Service Personnel and to establish new American Red Cross centres and to extend existing centres. Miss Hall was the administrative assistant to the delegate in charge of American Red Cross Service Clubs and Leave Areas in Australia. The other three women were Miss Hannah More Frazer, who was appointed Director of the American Red Cross Service Club in Melbourne in about September 1942; Miss Florice Langley who opened an ARC Service Club in Cairns, in far north Queensland; and Mrs. Anita Woodworth who opened an ARC Service Club in Charters Towers in north Queensland.

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Post Exchange No. 2] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Taking out the rubbish]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [BKC*23] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Mike Peel. 'Carley float' 2018

 

Mike Peel
Carley float
2018
CC-BY-SA-4.0

 

 

Carley float

The Carley float (sometimes Carley raft) was a form of invertible liferaft designed by American inventor Horace Carley (1838-1918). Supplied mainly to warships, it saw widespread use in a number of navies during peacetime and both World Wars until superseded by more modern rigid or inflatable designs. Carley was awarded a patent in 1903 after establishing the Carley Life Float Company of Philadelphia. …

Simply by casting it over the side, the lightweight Carley float could be launched more rapidly than traditional rigid lifeboat designs, and without the need for specialised hoists. It could be mounted on any convenient surface and survive the battering against the ship’s sides during heavy seas. Unlike the rubber inflatable rafts of the period, it was relatively immune to compromise of its buoyant chambers. Seafarers in it were however completely exposed to the elements, and would suffer accordingly. An inquiry of 1946 reported that many sailors who had succeeded in getting to the safety of Carley floats had nevertheless succumbed to exposure before rescue could be made. The crew of the Canadian minesweeper HMCS Esquimalt, sunk offshore of Nova Scotia in April 1945, lost at least 16 to hypothermia during the six hours in which they awaited rescue. Few of the survivors could still walk.

Despite these shortcomings many seamen did owe their lives to the Carley float. Chinese sailor Poon Lim survived for a record 133 days adrift in the South Atlantic aboard a Carley float after his freighter SS Benlomond was sunk on 23 November 1942. He fashioned fishing gear from components of the raft. He was close to death when discovered off the coast of Brazil on 5 April 1943, but was able to walk ashore unaided.

Though its occupant did not survive, a shrapnel-ridden Carley float carried the body of an unknown man to land on Christmas Island in February 1942. The sun-bleached corpse had evidently spent a lengthy period at sea, though to this day it remains unknown from where the sailor had come. It has long been suspected that the body was that of a sailor from HMAS Sydney, which was lost with all hands under mysterious circumstances off the coast of Australia on 19 November 1941. A second Carley float, more confidently believed to be from Sydney, was recovered drifting 300 km off the Australian coast one week after the ship sank. It had been badly damaged by shellfire, but was empty. The float is now displayed at the HMAS Sydney exhibit of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Transportation Corps US Army BKC*23] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Embarkation]' 1942-45

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Embarkation]
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian) 'Untitled [Embarkation]' 1942-45 (detail)

 

Anonymous photographer (Australian)
Untitled [Embarkation] (detail)
1942-45
Silver gelatin photograph
5.5 x 5.3cm

 

 

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28
Aug
20

Photographs: ‘Early French aviator glass slides’ c. 1913-14

August 2020

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviators]' c. 1913-14 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviators] (detail)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

 

Those daring young men in their war machines

I have always been fascinated with flight, and aeroplanes. When I was seventeen, I tried to enrol in the RAF as a fighter pilot, hence my own interest in the subject artistically over the last 10 years.

These fabulous and rare French large format glass slides were for sale on Ebay many moons ago, illustrated as negative images only. They fetched an enormous sum of money, far beyond the humble means I had at my disposal to purchase them. But I kept the negative jpg images, inverted them into positives, and I have cleaned them up as best I can. Not the best outcome, not the best quality, but better than nothing … and it means that other people can get to see them.

Taken in 1913, or possibly in 1914 the first year of the Great War – there are no guns present on the bomber, but this is not unusual for the early part of the war as can be seen in the photograph of Captain Maurice Happe in his bomber of 1915 below – I have spent a long time researching the make of the bomber and, with the help of the knowledgeable Jacques Crouille (thank you!), ascertaining the period uniforms that the men are wearing. The photographs seem to have been shot in one sitting, for the images contain the same wooden sheds, picket fence, and two bomber aircraft (one with wire wheels, one with solid wheels) of the “pusher” type, possibly a Farman MF.11 Shorthorn bomber. This means that the propellor is at the back of the aircraft pushing the plane along, instead of being placed in the front.

What I find fascinating are the attitudes of the men toward the camera, and the wonderful details present in the images. With their nonchalantly relaxed pose, arm on wing, clad in thick, buttoned flight suits trimmed at leg and neck with real fur to keep them warm up in the beyond, these daring young men stare straight at the camera. Their early leather helmets or “bone domes”, used in motor-racing and adopted by pilots as head protection, rest on the wing beside them. Some wear thick bezelled, large crowned aviation (a term coined in 1863) watches, which in the Great War were to be used to make coordinated attacks possible at a precise moment. As the men pose in front of their aircraft, what is also notable is the fragility of the machine: lashings of wood and canvas, wire wheels, and a huge amount of wire bracing, so much so it seems that the pilots are caught in a spiders web of the stuff as they stand there staring down the camera.

It must be winter, for snow and mud is on the ground, caking their short boots, knee length boots, and the wheels of the bombers. With slicked down hair, sometimes parted in the middle, sometimes paired with a moustache, the men’s waists are cinched with thick belts, their hands sheathed in leather gloves. Or. Clutching their gloves in bare hands. One handsome young man – possibly a mechanic wearing the dark blue uniform of the Chasseurs Alpins, his large beret carrying the yellow (daffodil) hunting horn insignia – is encased in the wonderfully titled “bandes molletières” (or puttees in English terminology), attire more regularly seen on infantry troops, and wears a ring on the fifth finger of his right hand. What is most amusing is the small doll attached to the front of bomber in the first photograph in the posting, like a carved figurehead on the bow of a ship (see above). A good luck charm?

These men would have needed it. Because of their slow speed (106km/h), bombers were particularly susceptible to German fighters (over 160km/h) and ground fire. No parachutes were issued to the crews of Allied “heavier-than-air” aircraft in World War 1, since it was thought that if a pilot had a parachute he would jump from the plane when hit rather than trying to save the aircraft (Wikipedia). The average life expectancy of a British Royal Flying Corp (RFC) pilot was just 18 airborne hours.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
These photographs are used under “fair use” conditions for the purpose of research and education. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviators]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviators]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Captain Maurice Happe, rear seat, commander of French squadron MF 29, seated in his Farman MF.11 Shorthorn bomber with a Captain Berthaut

 

Unknown photographer
Captain Maurice Happe, rear seat, commander of French squadron MF 29, seated in his Farman MF.11 Shorthorn bomber with a Captain Berthaut. The plane bears the insignia of the first unit, a Croix de Guerre
c. 1915
Gelatin silver print
Library of Congress

 

Italian Army Photographers 1915-1918. 'World War 1 - Italian Army: Second Battle of the Isonzo - Farman MF.11 Shorthorn light bomber of the Italian air force' between 18 July - 3 August 1915

 

Italian Army Photographers 1915-1918
World War 1 – Italian Army: Second Battle of the Isonzo – Farman MF.11 Shorthorn light bomber of the Italian air force
between 18 July – 3 August 1915
Gelatin silver print
Italian Army Historic Photogallery
CC By 2.5

 

 

Farman MF.11 Shorthorn bomber

The Maurice Farman MF.11 Shorthorn is a French aircraft developed before World War I by the Farman Aviation Works. It was used as a reconnaissance and light bomber during the early part of World War I, later being relegated to training duties. …

A pusher configuration unequal-span biplane like the earlier Farman MF.7, the MF.11 differed in lacking the forward-mounted elevator, the replacement of the biplane horizontal tail surfaces with a single surface with a pair of rudders mounted above it, and the mounting of the nacelle containing crew and engine in the gap between the two wings. The aircraft was also fitted with a machine gun for the observer, whose position was changed from the rear seat to the front in order to give a clear field of fire. …

The MF.11 served in both the British and French air services on the Western Front in the early stages of the war. As a light bomber it flew the first bombing raid of the war when on 21 December 1914 an MF.11 of the Royal Naval Air Service attacked German artillery positions around Ostend, Belgium.

The MF.11 was withdrawn from front-line service on the Western Front in 1915, but continued to be used by the French in Macedonia and the Middle East, while the British also used it in the Dardanelles, and Africa. The Australian Flying Corps (AFC), provided with the MF.11 by the British Indian Army, operated it during the Mesopotamian campaign of 1915-16.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Farman MF 11, photo reconaissance

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (detail)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

 

The winged badge worn on the vaseure, probably blue, indicates that this man is WW1 French aviation. French pilots wore kepi. This is not the case here. This man wore a beret with a badge, a horn, from the “Chasseurs Alpins”. At least in the beginning, a member of French aviation wore equipment from their first assignment. Here, probably Chasseurs Alpins. He’s not a pilot nor an officer, maybe a mechanic? Chasseurs Alpins were, and still are, elite mountain troops based in The Alps.

Jacques Crouille

 

Chasseur

Chasseur, a French term for “hunter”, is the designation given to certain regiments of French and Belgian light infantry (chasseurs à pied) or light cavalry (chasseurs à cheval) to denote troops trained for rapid action.

 

Chasseurs Alpins

The Chasseurs Alpins (English: Alpine Hunters) are the elite mountain infantry of the French Army. They are trained to operate in mountainous terrain and in urban warfare. …

France created its own mountain corps in the late 19th century in order to oppose any Italian invasion through the Alps. In 1859-70 Italy became unified, forming a powerful state. The French army saw this geopolitical change as a potential threat to their Alpine border, especially as the Italian army was already creating troops specialised in mountain warfare (the Alpini). On December 24, 1888, the first troupes de montagne (“mountain troops”) corps were created from 12 of the 31 existing Chasseurs à pied (“Hunters on Foot'”/”Foot Rifles'”) battalions.

Initially these units were named bataillons alpins de chasseurs à pied (“Alpine Battalions of Hunters on Foot”/”Alpine Foot Rifle Battalions”). Later this was shortened to bataillons de chasseurs alpins (“Battalions of Alpine Hunters”). From their establishment the chasseurs Alpins wore a plain and practical uniform designed to be suitable for mountain service. This comprised a loose-fitting dark blue jacket and blue-grey breeches, together with a large beret carrying the yellow (daffodil) hunting horn insignia of the Chasseur branch. They are believed to have been the first regular military unit to have worn this form of headdress.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

 

Bandes molletières

The bottom photograph shows his “bandes molletières” (literally “bandages”, in English leggings or more usually puttees).

Bandes molletières is a ribbon of cloth that encloses the calves from the ankle to the knee, and which was worn by the military. It protects the leg and replaces high boots, avoiding the entry of dirt or mud when crawling, without aggravating the shortage of leather, the main raw material necessary for the manufacture of boots.

They are fast to set up (30 seconds for cross-mounting with a little training) and, when properly adjusted, their compression effect allows men to withstand long periods of standing. Nevertheless, they become sodden with water in wet ground and when it rains.

 

Puttees

Puttee, also spelled puttie, is the name, adapted from the Hindi paṭṭī, bandage (Skt. paṭṭa, strip of cloth), for a covering for the lower part of the leg from the ankle to the knee, alternatively known as: legwraps, leg bindings, winingas, or wickelbander. They consist of a long narrow piece of cloth wound tightly, and spirally round the leg, and serving to provide both support and protection. They were worn by both mounted and dismounted soldiers, generally taking the place of the leather or cloth gaiter.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14

 

 

The winged badge worn on the vaseure, probably sand colour, says that this man is WW1 French aviation. He may be an observer / gunner as he is wearing a kepi, but not a good one. He has no wings on the collar, so he’s not an officer. The gloves and the watch may indicate he is member of the flight crew. Observer? Gunner? It’s hard to be precise as the French air force was at its beginning and uniforms came from different army corps. Aviation at that time was part of the Land Force.

Jacques Crouille

 

Kepi

The kepi is a cap with a flat circular top and a peak, or visor. Etymologically, the term is a loanword of the French képi, itself a re-spelled version of the Alemannic Käppi: a diminutive form of Kappe, meaning “cap”. In Europe, this headgear is most commonly associated with French military and police uniforms, though versions of it were widely worn by other armies during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Kepi, French Air Service, Kiffin Rockwell, Lafayette Escadrille

 

Kepi, French Air Service, Kiffin Rockwell, Lafayette Escadrille

 

 

This kepi is an example of the type worn by Foreign Legion in the French Army during the First World War. This kepi was worn by Kiffin Rockwell in the French Air Service. It was not unusual for individuals that transferred to the air service to continue to use the uniform of their original service branch.

Kiffin Rockwell flew with the Lafayette Escadrille during World War I. Kiffin and his brother Paul went to France in August 1914 and joined the French Foreign Legion. Kiffin entered combat in the winter of 1915 and was severely wounded at Neuville-Saint-Vaast later that May. Following a lengthy convalescence, Kiffin obtained a transfer to the French Air Service and was one of the original members of the Escadrille Lafayette, a squadron of American pilots flying for France. Rockwell shot down his first of four German aircraft on May 18, 1916, in Alsace. On September 23, 1916, he was shot down over Verdun and buried at Luxiul. For his services to France, Rockwell was awarded the Medaille Miliataire and the Croix de Guerre with two palms.

Text and image from the National Air and Space Museum website [Online] Cited 12/03/2019

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French?)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (detail)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

German pilot helmet of World War I. Dated to 1910s

 

German pilot helmet of World War I
Dated to 1910s
Hat size 57
Made of Leather, wool, cotton/linen and metal
Height: 150 mm (5.9 in); Width: 210 mm (8.2 in); Depth: 225 mm (8.8 in)
Hamburg Museum
CC3.0

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator]
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled [Early French aviator]' c. 1913-14

 

Unknown photographer (French)
Untitled [Early French aviator] (details)
c. 1913-14
Glass plate

 

 

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14
Apr
20

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

Exhibition dates: 29th February – 24th May 2020

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

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

#MuseumFromHome

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

The lust of the eye

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

Vergissmeinnicht (Forget Me Not) (1943)

Keith Douglas 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Women behind the Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

163 colour photographs

 

About the Authors

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

Fotomuseum Winterthur website

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17
Jul
19

Exhibition: ‘Every Past Is My Past’ (photographs from the Fortepan digital photo archives) at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Exhibition dates: 16th April – 25th August 2019

Curator of the exhibition: István Virágvölgyi
Co-curator: Miklós Tamási
Curatorial assistant: Mária Madár

The catalog is a richly illustrated catalog in Hungarian and English.

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1948

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1948
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

In seeking to understand the past, present and future of a people and a country, the importance of analysing the pictures stored within a historical photographic archive cannot be underestimated. The photographs in an archive such as the Hungarian Fortepan digital photo archive are a form of cultural memory, a collective consciousness, in pictures, of the numerous lifelines of the people of that country, its history, it triumphs, its trials and tribulations. Jean-Paul Sartre observes, “Time … is everywhere a self-transcendence and a referring of the before to the after and of the after to the before…” Photographs do this very well, as the future beyond the click of the shutter, becomes past time; that very time is then transcended back into present time, the past into the present embracing the future, when someone looks at an “old” photograph. The old is young again.

The Fortepan digital photo archive usually de/pics anonymous people taken by unknown photographers in sometimes known, sometimes unknown settings. It represents “Hungary’s 20th century history, the images focusing on the lives of ordinary people and their experiences, as conveyed by private photographers.” These vernacular photographs act as a tabula rasa,1 a touchstone for hidden stories and histories. The prima materia, the base material of chaos, forms a clean slate (tabula rasa) on which is written the order of the image. Out of light emerges darkness, the inversion that is the negative, which is then made positive again during printing. The etching of light onto the negative builds up a story first seen in the mind’s eye – that knowledge then decoded (or not) through experience and perception: how do you interpret a photograph? What language does it speak? Do you understand what it is saying? The before to the after and the after to the before…

And then we see. Images of happy human beings hanging from a crossbar; a young boy with amputation looking quizzically at the camera while a doctor and nurses pose stiffly, sullenly; and the horrors of war and an uprising that failed. The bits and pieces of lives and people and places and things and events and wars and death and youth and happiness and fun. A palimpsest. The past presently emerging, the present being constantly overwritten, the future embedded in the past. We are but a speck, an infinitesimal speck in the cosmos, not even a micron of a grain of sand in the fluidity of space/time.

“Even our experience of time and space, argues Jameson, has been transformed under postmodernism. Time has collapsed into a perpetual present, in which everything from the past has been severed from its historical context in order to circulate anew in the present, devoid of its original meanings but contributing to the cluttered texture of our commodified surroundings. The result, he writes, is historical amnesia, a lack of knowledge about the past that, in its pathological form, resembles the schizophrenic’s inability to remember anything and consequent inability to sustain a coherent identity.”2

What the photographs of the Fortepan archive let us achieve is to compile an incomplete, an in/coherent but valid identity from a certain perspective (and that is very important). As with any system of classification, it all depends who is looking and from what point of view. They also let us meditate on our brief existence in order to say, we were/are/will be here. And it mattered.

I look forward to hopefully meeting my friends Tamás Németh and Miklós Tamási when I am in Budapest soon.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

 

  1. Tabula rasa is the theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that therefore all knowledge comes from experience or perception.
  2. Jameson, Frederic. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Duke University Press, Durham, N.C., 1991, p. 419 quoted in Springer, Claudia. Electronic Eros: Bodies and Desire in the Postindustrial Age. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996, p. 40

.
Many thankx to the Hungarian National Gallery, Tamás Németh, Ákos Szepessy and the Fortepan digital photo archives for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“Time … is everywhere a self-transcendence and a referring of the before to the after and of the after to the before … If time is considered by itself, it immediately dissolves into an absolute multiplicity of instants which considered separately lose all temporal nature and are reduced pure and simply to the total a-temporality of the this.”

.
Satre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. (trans. Hazel Barnes). London: Methuen, 1966, p. 215.

 

“Fortepan is a collective effort at “codebreaking” the assembled scanned negatives, to decipher what is there before us in the image. Fortepan has become a public resource of the Hungarian audio-visual culture.”

“In a word, Fortepan perhaps helps to make the 20th century, with all its turns and twists, a little more understandable, bearable and emotionally fathomable.”

.
Miklós Tamási, Founder of Fortepan

 

“The archive is one that is free, high resolution, and operates based on Creative Commons 3. This means that it can be used free of charge even for commercial purposes. Even in such cases, people don’t owe us anything.”

.
András Török, Cultural Manager of Fortepan

 

 

 

 

VIRTUAL TOUR OF THE EXHIBITION

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled (amputation)' 1916

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled (amputation)
1916
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Slovakia, Esztergom the Castle Hill and the Basilica from the Maria-Valeria Bridge' 1900

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Slovakia, Esztergom the Castle Hill and the Basilica from the Maria-Valeria Bridge
1900
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Balaton, Siofok' 1920

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Balaton, Siofok
1920
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Rácalmás opposite the Catholic Church (demolished in 1969)' 1920

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Rácalmás opposite the Catholic Church (demolished in 1969)
1920
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Budapest III., Óbuda Óbuda Shipyard, Danube branch next to Hajógyári Island, BL floating crane and two DDSG barge' 1920

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Budapest III., Óbuda Óbuda Shipyard, Danube branch next to Hajógyári Island, BL floating crane and two DDSG barge
1920
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

From the material of the popular Fortepan digital photo archive, a selection of more than three hundred pieces at the Hungarian National Gallery is presented. The exhibited pictures are closely related to Hungary’s 20th century history. The age in which they were made is manifested in many different ways in these images, but the emphasis is on the view and life events of the average person through the private photographs that provide the backbone of the collection.

Representing Hungary’s 20th century history, the images focus on the lives of ordinary people and their experiences, as conveyed by private photographers.

The founders of the collection, two high school classmates Miklós Tamási and Ákos Szepessy, began to collect the photographs in the digital Fortepan archives back in the 1980s. They launched an online site with 5,000 digitised images in 2010. Today the collection numbers 110,000 photos.

Each photograph in the exhibition tells a story. In some cases these stories can be reconstructed, but in most others the people in the pictures are no longer known, and neither are the circumstances in which the photo was taken, allowing visitors to use their imagination and invent their own stories linked to the images.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled (woman and boy)' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled (woman and boy)
1935
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Romania, Transylvania, Strait of Békés' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Romania, Transylvania, Strait of Békés
1935
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Slovakia, Three Revuca highway between Veľký Šturec pass and village, opposite Čierny Kameň' 1935

 

Unknown photographer
Slovakia, Three Revuca highway between Veľký Šturec pass and village, opposite Čierny Kameň
1935
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Szentes St. Imre street, opposite number 5' 1936

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Szentes St. Imre street, opposite number 5
1936
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Budapest VIII. Tavaszmező utca 1, Gartner Károly, writer of sipotei Golgotha' 1942

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Budapest VIII. Tavaszmező utca 1, Gartner Károly, writer of sipotei Golgotha
1942
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

Gartner Károly (author) Gyula Komjáti (graphics). A Sipotei Golgotha: Romániai Rabmagyarok Története (A Sipotei Golgotha: The history of the Romanian prisoners of Hungarians). G. Z. Hartrampf I, 1932

The name of Șipotele, even for those interested in history, is mostly unknown. One of the most inhumane prisoners of war prisons in the First World War was established near this Romanian settlement, and most of the prisoners were Hungarian. Șipotele was located near the Romanian-Russian border at the time, eight kilometres from the Prut River and 40 kilometers south of lași.

 

Gartner Károly. 'A Sipotei Golgotha: Romániai Rabmagyarok Története' 1932 book cover

 

Gartner Károly (1908-1972) (author)
Gyula Komjáti (1894-1958) (graphics)
G. Z. Hartrampf I (publisher)
A Sipotei Golgotha: Romániai Rabmagyarok Története
Golgotha ​​Sipotei: The history of the Romanian prisoners of Hungarians
1932
Book cover

 

 

Gartner Károly (1908-1972) was born in Transylvania and married Irén Weigand, an officer of the Waterworks in Székesfehérvár, in 1936. Károly Gartner was mentioned in his thirties and forties as a result of his reminiscences of Golgotha, which depicts the death of fourteen thousand Hungarian prisoners of war from the experiences of the First World War. Together with his wife he also wrote a Hungarian song titled Cherry Blossom, was former director of the Phoenix Chocolate Shop, was the national director of the Bethlen István National Unity Party, and from 1938 he was the head of the Municipal Food Plant in Budapest.

Gyula Komjáti (1894-1958) was a Hungarian graphic artist, painter and teacher. He studied at Olgyai Viktors at the College of Fine Arts in Budapest. He was captured in World War I; it has become known through the graphics and etchings of the Sipotei prison camp. In 1926 he won the Ernst Prize and the Zichy Prize. Between 1927 and 1929 he spent a longer time in London with a state scholarship. He also captured World War II in drawings. From 1953 he was a teacher at the Budapest School of Fine Arts and Applied Arts.

 

Gyula Komjáti (1894-1958) 'Csendélet Sipotén' 1917

 

Gyula Komjáti (1894-1958)
Csendélet Sipotén
1917
Drawing for the book Golgotha Sipotei

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1942

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1942
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Budapest XIV., City Park, Budapest International Fair showing captured Soviet I-15 Csajka fighter wreck' 1942

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Budapest XIV., City Park, Budapest International Fair showing captured Soviet I-15 Csajka fighter wreck
1942
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

Polikarpov I-15

The Polikarpov I-15 (Russian: И-15) was a Soviet biplane fighter aircraft of the 1930s. Nicknamed Chaika (Russian: Чайка, “Seagull”) because of its gulled upper wings, it was operated in large numbers by the Soviet Air Force, and together with the Polikarpov I-16 monoplane, was one of the standard fighters of the Spanish Republicans during the Spanish Civil War, where it was called Chato (snub-nose).

More than 1,000 I-15bis fighters were still in Soviet use during the German invasion when the biplane was employed in the ground attack role. By late 1942, all I-15s and I-15bis’ were relegated to second line duties.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Kogo. 'Polikarpov I-15bis 'Bort 19' (Aviarestoration)' 2005

 

Kogo
Polikarpov I-15bis ‘Bort 19’ (Aviarestoration)
2005
CC 2.0

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1943

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1943
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

More than 110,000 photographs of Fortepan’s digital collection were collected by two high school classmates, Miklós Tamási and Ákos Szepessy in the 1980s. After the regular, but possibly collecting, amateur photos and negatives appearing on the out of stock markets, they launched their Internet site in 2010 with the publication of 5,000 digitised photos. Soon, many private individuals and public institutions have joined the donating circle of 600 people, whose images are expanding monthly with the archive.

The two most important features of Fortepan’s archive (named after the most popular amateur film by amateur photographers of the former Vác Forte) are free and common. Shared because it is made up of our pictures and is about our world. Shared because it is based on volunteers. Shared because anyone can help identify individual locations and people. Free because it is freely available to anyone without any restrictions, and images can be used without royalty.

It belongs to all the photos in the exhibition, it was a story. In the fortunate case, this story can be recalled, but in most cases it is no longer known what the individuals in the photos are, the history of the individual images – so the visitor’s imagination is left to see the story behind the photo.  Today’s background stories provide an insight into the misery of the world champion, who is modelled on the figure on the back of the old twenty-pound banknote, or the rescue of a burnt photo archive. In addition to this, the exhibition is strongly summoned by the ruined Budapest destroyed during World War II; visitors can walk through an imaginary capital street with pictures taken over decades and in different places, placed in the position of Fortepan editors and picking pictures of a legacy; or read into the many readers’ letters written to Fortepan.

In the exhibition, as well as in a large, common family photo album, along the paths of human life, photographs taken before the 1990s are followed by a total of about 200 pieces. For the first time in this exhibition, the main characters are children, then young people, adults and finally the elderly. In addition, we present more than 150 photos, of which sixteen well-described stories are drawn. Including the 2 World War II fronts – as a war correspondent saw; the idyll of rural life with the eyes of a photographic painter; barely photographed history of the Hungarian Holocaust; life in Transylvania during the dictatorship of the 1980s or everyday life of a First World War Prisoner in Siberia. The pictures of Budapest, destroyed by war, or youth sports with the defence content of the Cold War years form a separate story. But there is more unity in the last years of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, pictures of the Stalin statue in 1956, photographs of the rebellious youth of the 1970s and 1980s, or banned photos of commuters from 1964. The sixteen stories, with their associated photos and their complementary items, appear in a separate installation at the exhibition.

In our centuries-old common history, the exhibition updates our memory of the memories that are directly and directly linked to us, just as Zsuzsa Rakovszky puts it in his poem Fortepan: “Every past is my past”.

Text from the Hungarian National Gallery website [Online] Cited 29/06/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition Every Past Is My Past at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

 

 

About Fortepan

Fortepan is a copyright-free and community-based photo archive with over 100,000 photographs available for anyone to browse and download in high-resolution, free of charge. The images are free to share with the appropriate credit given as FORTEPAN / NAME OF DONOR. Please do provide the full credit at all times as it is a tribute to the selfless contribution of the donor.

This website was launched in 2010 by Ákos Szepessy and Miklós Tamási and it initially contained photographs found randomly in the streets of Budapest. The archive has expanded since then through donations from families, amateur and professional photographers, along with public collections. The images on the website are selected by editors. The descriptions attached to the images are compiled and edited by volunteers, utilising information contributed at the Fortepan Forum. We gladly offer to process your photographs and negatives as well, you can contact us at fortepan@gmail.com.

Fortepan’s collaborators are: László Gál, Luca Jávor, László Lajtai, Pál Négyesi, Tamás Németh, András Pálfi, Zsolt Pálinkás, Gábor Péter, Dávid Sándor, Gyula Simon, Miklós Tamási, András Török, János Varga, János F. Varga. Fortepan’s work is supported by Arcanum, Blinken OSA Archivum, Archive of Modern Conflict and Forum Hungaricum Nonprofit Kft. Administrative management is provided by Summa Artium Nonprofit Kft.

Text from the Fortepan website

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Uzsa (at that time part of the Lesenceistvánd settlement), Liget utca' 1950

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Uzsa (at that time part of the Lesenceistvánd settlement), Liget utca
1950
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary on 8126 from Söréd and Csákberény towards Csákberény. To the right is the Bodajk-Gánt railway' 1950s

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary on 8126 from Söréd and Csákberény towards Csákberény. To the right is the Bodajk-Gánt railway
1950s
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Budapest VII. Elizabeth (Lenin) road from New York Palace to Blaha Lujza Square' 1956

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Budapest VII. Elizabeth (Lenin) road from New York Palace to Blaha Lujza Square
1956
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Budapest V. South of Kossuth Lajos Square, underground construction area' 1956

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Budapest V. South of Kossuth Lajos Square, underground construction area
1956
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hungary, Budapest VIII. II. Pope John Paul (Republic) Square, main entrance of the Erkel Theater' 1956

 

Unknown photographer
Hungary, Budapest VIII. II. Pope John Paul (Republic) Square, main entrance of the Erkel Theater
1956
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1957

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1957
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1957

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1957
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1957

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1957
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1969

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1969
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Unknown photographer. 'Untitled' 1969

 

Unknown photographer
Untitled
1969
Fortepan / Capital of Budapest Archives

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

Installation view of the exhibition 'Every Past Is My Past' at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

 

Installation views of the exhibition Every Past Is My Past at the Hungarian National Gallery (MNG), Budapest

 

 

Hungarian National Gallery
1014 Budapest, Szent György Square 2
Central Telephone: +361 201 9082

Opening hours
Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 to 18.00
Monday closed

Fortepan website

Hungarian National Gallery website

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11
Jul
19

Photograph: ‘PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944’ by Horace Bristol (1908-1997)

July 2019

 

Horace Bristol (1908-1997) 'PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944'

 

Horace Bristol (American, 1908-1997)
PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

 

On the fly

This is a stunning picture taken of a brave, courageous, and beautiful man. It is also quite an erotic photograph of a naked man. Can a picture of this man be both heroic and erotic? Of course it can.

A comment on the Rare Historical Photos website from which the quote below is taken observes:

“There’s nothing inherently erotic about simple nudity, as any naturist can tell you. If people refrained from sexualizing images of clothes-free living / working / recreating, then perhaps we could have more of it, with the benefit of improving both physical and mental health.”

The comment is prudish to say the least. Modern French conceptions of eroticism state that it is an act of transgression that affirms our humanity, a transgression of the taboo, in this case the desire of pleasurable looking (scopophilia). The French philosopher Georges Bataille argues that eroticism performs a function of dissolving boundaries between human subjectivity and humanity, a transgression that dissolves the rational world… for Bataille, as well as many French theorists, “Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest… eroticism is assenting to life even in death”. (George Bataille, Eroticism, Penguin 2001, p. 11.)

Even in the face of death (the man’s heroic actions in rescuing the downed pilot, and the death freeze, the memento mori, of the photograph) we, the observer, can affirm his life through eroticism, this forbidden impulse. As Christopher Lasch comments,

“Twentieth-century peoples have erected so many psychological barriers against strong emotion, and have invested those defenses with so much energy derived from forbidden impulse, that they can no longer remember what it feels like to be inundated with desire. They tend, rather, to be consumed with rage, which derives from defenses against desire and gives rise in turn to new defenses against rage itself. Outwardly bland, submissive, and sociable, they seethe with an inner anger for which a dense, overpopulated, bureaucratic society can devise few outlets.”1

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While we acknowledge the strength and commitment of this brave young man and admire his “majestic nakedness” … on another level, we can invest in those oft denied strong emotions of pleasure and desire. Pleasure in looking at his body and desire for his youth and masculinity which overturns the forbidden impulse and transgresses the supposed taboo that a hero cannot be desired. Brave, heroic, human and downright hot, hot, hot!

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

PS. Please note the chart ‘This is the enemy’ by the mans buttocks, so that he can keep an eye out for Japanese ships while patrolling. His position in the aircraft is noted in the close up photograph below.

 

  1. Lasch, Christopher. The Culture of Narcissism. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1978, p. 11.

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Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

This young crewman of a US Navy “Dumbo” PBY rescue mission has just jumped into the water of Rabaul Harbor to rescue a badly burned Marine pilot who was shot down while bombing the Japanese-held fortress of Rabaul. Since Japanese coastal defense guns were firing at the plane while it was in the water during take-off, this brave young man, after rescuing the pilot, manned his position as machine gunner without taking time to put on his clothes. A hero photographed right after he’d completed his heroic act. Naked.

Photo taken by Horace Bristol (1908-1997). In 1941, Bristol was recruited to the U.S. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, as one of six photographers under the command of Captain Edward J. Steichen, documenting World War II in places such as South Africa, and Japan. He ended up being on the plane the gunner was serving on, which was used to rescue people from Rabaul Bay (New Britain Island, Papua New Guinea), when this occurred. In an article from a December 2002 issue of B&W magazine he remembers:

“…we got a call to pick up an airman who was down in the Bay. The Japanese were shooting at him from the island, and when they saw us they started shooting at us. The man who was shot down was temporarily blinded, so one of our crew stripped off his clothes and jumped in to bring him aboard. He couldn’t have swum very well wearing his boots and clothes. As soon as we could, we took off. We weren’t waiting around for anybody to put on formal clothes. We were being shot at and wanted to get the hell out of there. The naked man got back into his position at his gun in the blister of the plane.”

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Anonymous. “The naked gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944,” on the Rare Historical Photos website [Online] Cited 02/07/2019

 

“To understand the current mainstream eroticising of the male body as a purely homoerotic gesture, though, is to misrecognise the nature of the desire which flows between the media and its audience. The desire courted by men’s magazines, whether they are pitched at a nominally hetero or homosexual market, is the desire to consume. For consumer’s it’s a seduction which is increasingly mediated by the consumption of images. What is presaged by the new sexualising of men is not merely the extension and refinement of an existing market, but a new order of commodification. Originally carriers of the commodity virus, images have become desirable in themselves. Or to put it another way, our desires are increasingly modelled on the logic of images.”

Lumby, Catharine. “Nothing Personal: Sex, Gender and Identity in The Media Age,” in Matthews, Jill (ed.,). Sex in Public: Australian Sexual Cultures. St. Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1997, p. 9.

 

“The second school of thought is characterized by newer approaches, which forcibly challenge these essentialist notions of sexuality. This second school of thought includes neo-psychoanalytic approaches which see sexuality and sexual desire as constituted in language (the work of Freud reinterpreted via Jacques Lacan; a position that has been taken up by feminists such as Juliet Mitchell). It also includes discursive or poststructuralist approaches which take as a starting point the work of Michel Foucault who argues that sexuality is an historical apparatus and sex is a complex idea that was formed with the deployment of sexuality.

What links this second group of theorists is the recognition of social and historical sources of sexual definitions and a belief that bodies are only unified through ideological constructs such as sex and sexuality. That is; sex and sexuality are, and have been, shaped and determined by a multiplicity of forces (such as race, class and religion) and have undergone complex historical transformations. We therefore give the notions of sex, gender and sexuality different meanings at different times and for different people. These notions combine to create understandings of ‘sexualized bodies’ which are subsequently expressed and reinforced through a variety of mechanisms; for example through marriage laws, the regulations of deviance, the judiciary, the police, as well as, more generally, the education system, and the welfare system (Weeks, 1989, p. 9). This view of sexuality as ‘constructed’ is in agreement with the view of sex as ‘given’ on the basis that sex and sexuality define us socially and morally. However, this second view suggests that sexuality could be a potentiality for choice, change and diversity, but instead we see it as destiny – and depending on whether you are male, female, homosexual, heterosexual, young, old, black or white, for example, your destiny is set in certain ways.”

Stephen, Kylie. “Sexualized Bodies,” in Evans, M. and Lee, E. (eds.,). Real Bodies. Palgrave, London, 2002, p. 30 [Online] Cited 05/07/2019

 

Eroticism

Eroticism (from the Greek ἔρως, eros – “desire”) is a quality that causes sexual feelings, as well as a philosophical contemplation concerning the aesthetics of sexual desire, sensuality, and romantic love. That quality may be found in any form of artwork, including painting, sculpture, photography, drama, film, music, or literature. It may also be found in advertising. The term may also refer to a state of sexual arousal or anticipation of such – an insistent sexual impulse, desire, or pattern of thoughts.

As French novelist Honoré de Balzac stated, eroticism is dependent not just upon an individual’s sexual morality, but also the culture and time in which an individual resides. …

.
French philosophy

Modern French conceptions of eroticism can be traced to Age of Enlightenment, when “in the eighteenth century, dictionaries defined the erotic as that which concerned love… eroticism was the intrusion into the public sphere of something that was at base private”. This theme of intrusion or transgression was taken up in the twentieth century by the French philosopher Georges Bataille, who argued that eroticism performs a function of dissolving boundaries between human subjectivity and humanity, a transgression that dissolves the rational world but is always temporary, as well as that, “Desire in eroticism is the desire that triumphs over the taboo. It presupposes man in conflict with himself”. For Bataille, as well as many French theorists, “Eroticism, unlike simple sexual activity, is a psychological quest… eroticism is assenting to life even in death”. (George Bataille, Eroticism, Penguin 2001, p. 11.)

.
Non-heterosexual

Queer theory and LGBT studies consider the concept from a non-heterosexual perspective, viewing psychoanalytical and modernist views of eroticism as both archaic and heterosexist, written primarily by and for a “handful of elite, heterosexual, bourgeois men” who “mistook their own repressed sexual proclivities” as the norm.

Theorists like Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Gayle S. Rubinand Marilyn Frye all write extensively about eroticism from a heterosexual, lesbian and separatist point of view, respectively, seeing eroticism as both a political force and cultural critique for marginalised groups, or as Mario Vargas Llosa summarised: “Eroticism has its own moral justification because it says that pleasure is enough for me; it is a statement of the individual’s sovereignty”. (Mangan, J. A. “Men, Masculinity, and Sexuality: Some Recent Literature,” in Journal of the History of Sexuality 3:2, 1992, pp. 303-13.)

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Horace Bristol (1908-1997) 'PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944' (detail)

 

Horace Bristol (American, 1908-1997)
PBY Blister Gunner, Rescue at Rabaul, 1944 (detail)
1944
Gelatin silver print

 

Battleships

Nagato
?
Fuso

 

 

Horace Bristol

Horace Bristol (November 16, 1908 – August 4, 1997) was a twentieth-century American photographer, best known for his work in Life. His photos appeared in Time, Fortune, Sunset, and National Geographic magazines.

Early life

Bristol was born and raised in Whittier, California, he was the son of Edith Bristol, women’s editor at the San Francisco Call. Bristol attended the Art Center of Los Angeles, originally majoring in architecture. In 1933, he moved to San Francisco to work in commercial photography, and met Ansel Adams, who lived near his studio. Through his friendship with Adams, he met Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and other artists. He was copy reader at night for the Los Angeles Times after graduating from Belmont High School.

Photography career

In 1936, Bristol became a part of Life‘s founding photographers, and in 1938, began to document migrant farmers in California’s central valley with John Steinbeck, recording the Great Depression, photographs that would later be called the Grapes of Wrath collection.

In 1941, Bristol was recruited to the U.S. Naval Aviation Photographic Unit, as one of six photographers under the command of Captain Edward J. Steichen, documenting World War II in places such as South Africa, and Japan. Bristol helped to document the invasions of North Africa, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.

Later life

Following his documentation of World War II, Bristol settled in Tokyo, Japan, selling his photographs to magazines in Europe and the United States, and becoming the Asian correspondent to Fortune. He published several books, and established the East-West Photo Agency.

Following the death of his wife in 1956, Bristol burned all his negatives, packed his photographs into storage, and retired from photography. He went on to remarry, and have two children. He returned to the United States, and after 30 years, recovered the photographs from storage, to share with his family. Subsequently he approached his alma mater, Art Center College of Design, where the World War II and migrant worker photographs became the subject of a 1989 solo exhibition. The migrant worker photos would go on to be part of the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Grapes of Wrath series.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Silhouette recognition chart of Japanese surface vessels of World War 2 September 1944

 

Silhouette recognition chart of Japanese surface vessels of World War 2 September 1944

 

 

Great Planes – Catalina Pby

A great documentary about this plane.

 

U.S. Navy. 'A U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina patrol bomber in flight, 1942-43' c. 1942

 

U.S. Navy
A U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina patrol bomber in flight, 1942-43
c. 1942
U.S. National Archives 80-G-K-14896

This plane carries radar antennas under its wing

 

U.S. Navy. 'A U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina patrol bomber in flight, 1942-43' (detail) c. 1942

 

U.S. Navy
A U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina patrol bomber in flight, 1942-43 (detail)
c. 1942
U.S. National Archives 80-G-K-14896

 

 

Consolidated PBY Catalina

Around 3,300 aircraft were built, and these operated in nearly all operational theatres of World War II. The Catalina served with distinction and played a prominent and invaluable role against the Japanese. This was especially true during the first year of the war in the Pacific, because the PBY and the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress were the only American aircraft with the range to be effective in the Pacific.

First flight: 28 March 1935
Introduction: October 1936, United States Navy
Retired: January 1957 (United States Navy Reserve)
1979 (Brazilian Air Force)
Primary users: United States Navy
United States Army Air Forces
Royal Air Force
Royal Canadian Air Force
Produced: 1936-1945
Number built: 3,305 (2,661 U.S.-built, 620 Canadian-built, 24 Soviet-built

General characteristics

Crew: 10 – pilot, co-pilot, bow turret gunner, flight engineer, radio operator, navigator, radar operator, two waist gunners, ventral gunner
Length: 63 ft 10 7/16 in (19.46 m)
Wingspan: 104 ft 0 in (31.70 m)
Height: 21 ft 1 in (6.15 m)
Wing area: 1,400 ft² (130 m²)
Empty weight: 20,910 lb (9,485 kg)
Max. takeoff weight: 35,420 lb (16,066 kg)
Zero-lift drag coefficient: 0.0309
Drag area: 43.26 ft² (4.02 m²)
Aspect ratio: 7.73
Powerplant: 2 × Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92 Twin Wasp radial engines, 1,200 hp (895 kW) each

Performance

Maximum speed: 196 mph (314 km/h)
Cruise speed: 125 mph (201 km/h)
Range: 2,520 mi (4,030 km)
Service ceiling: 15,800 ft (4,815 m)
Rate of climb: 1,000 ft/min (5.1 m/s)
Wing loading: 25.3 lb/ft² (123.6 kg/m²)
Power/mass: 0.067 hp/lb (0.111 kW/kg)
Lift-to-drag ratio: 11.9

Armament

3x .30 cal (7.62 mm) machine guns (two in nose turret, one in ventral hatch at tail)
2x .50 cal (12.7 mm) machine guns (one in each waist blister)
4,000 lb (1,814 kg) of bombs or depth charges; torpedo racks were also available

October 1941 – January 1945

Hydraulically actuated, retractable tricycle landing gear, with main gear design based on one from the 1920s designed by Leroy Grumman, for amphibious operation. Introduced tail gun position, replaced bow single gun position with bow “eyeball” turret equipped with twin .30 machine guns (some later units), improved armour, self-sealing fuel tanks.

Search and rescue

Catalinas were employed by every branch of the U.S. military as rescue aircraft. A PBY piloted by LCDR Adrian Marks (USN) rescued 56 sailors in high seas from the heavy cruiser Indianapolis after the ship was sunk during World War II. When there was no more room inside, the crew tied sailors to the wings. The aircraft could not fly in this state; instead it acted as a lifeboat, protecting the sailors from exposure and the risk of shark attack, until rescue ships arrived. Catalinas continued to function in the search-and-rescue role for decades after the end of the war.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Howard R. Hollem (American, -1949) for the United States Office of War Information. 'Jesse Rhodes Waller, a World War II Aviation Ordnanceman stationed at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, installing a M1919 Browning machine gun in a United States Navy PBY plane' August 1942

 

Howard R. Hollem (American, -1949) for the United States Office of War Information
Jesse Rhodes Waller, a World War II Aviation Ordnanceman stationed at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, installing a M1919 Browning machine gun in a United States Navy PBY plane
August 1942
Kodachrome film
United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division digital ID fsac.1a34894
The image is in the public domain

 

 

It’s an intricate operation – installing a 30-calibre machine gun in a Navy PBY plane, but not too tricky for Jesse Rhodes Waller, Corpus Christi, Texas. He’s a Georgia man who’s been in the Navy 5-1/2 years. At the Naval Air Base he sees that the flying ships are kept in tip-top shape. Waller is an aviation ordnance mate (AOM)

Howard R. Hollem was a photographer with the US Farm Security Administration and the US Office of War Information during the 1930s and 1940s.

Jesse Rhodes Waller was enlisted in the US Navy 13 Oct 1936 in Macon, Georgia. He served aboard USS Tarbell (DD-142) and USS Curtiss (AV-4).

 

Howard R. Hollem (American, -1949) for the United States Office of War Information. 'Jesse Rhodes Waller, a World War II Aviation Ordnanceman stationed at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, installing a M1919 Browning machine gun in a United States Navy PBY plane' (detail) August 1942

 

Howard R. Hollem (American, -1949) for the United States Office of War Information
Jesse Rhodes Waller, a World War II Aviation Ordnanceman stationed at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas, installing a M1919 Browning machine gun in a United States Navy PBY plane (detail)
August 1942
Kodachrome film
United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division digital ID fsac.1a34894
The image is in the public domain

 

Howard R. Hollem (American, -1949) for the United States Office of War Information. 'US Navy ordnanceman Jesse Rhodes Waller posing with a M1919 Browning machine gun in a PBY Catalina aircraft, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas, United States' August 1942

 

Howard R. Hollem (American, -1949) for the United States Office of War Information
US Navy ordnanceman Jesse Rhodes Waller posing with a M1919 Browning machine gun in a PBY Catalina aircraft, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi, Texas, United States
August 1942
Kodachrome film
United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division
The image is in the public domain

 

 

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22
Apr
19

Exhibition: ‘Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection’ at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

Exhibition dates: 23rd November 2018 – 28th April 2019

Curators: Joachim Meyer and Peter Wandel

 

 

Unknown photographer. 'The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
The Taj Mahal, Agra, from the north
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

There are some beautiful photographs in this posting, mainly by British photographers evidencing the colonial gaze.

This is how the British saw their subjects “Under Indian Skies” not how the Indians would have seen themselves. The only Indian photographer in this posting is Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905). His photograph The Char Minar, Hyderabad (1880s, below) is a much more fluid, street photography representation of Indian life (long time exposure, blurred figures) than the other grandiose representations of Indian palaces and architecture.

The portraits are also instructive, aping as they do the classical aspirations of contemporary European carte de visite and cabinet cards. Even though the photograph Portrait of a young Indian woman by an unknown photographer (1870s, below) portrays her in Indian dress, she is accompanied to the left by a reproduction of a classical Greek statue. Of course, the aspersion is that while she may be beautiful and different, the Orient is always reliant on Europe and Greece as the birthplace of civilisation, for its existence.

I have included extra information about locations and photographers were possible.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to The David Collection for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photograph for a larger version of the image.

 

The invention of photography in 1839 revolutionised the way in which the world was documented and interpreted, not only in Europe, but also in Asia. As early as the beginning of the 1850s, the British authorities in India launched an impressive photographic survey of architecture. Enthusiastic amateur photographers soon followed suit with atmospheric images of life in the period, including that of maharajas, snake charmers, and elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Through a selection of pictures from a private British collection, this photo exhibition focuses on some of the challenges and subjects that preoccupied the earliest European and Indian photographers. It also displays the distinctive beauty of vintage photos created with difficult to handle apparatuses, big glass negatives, long exposure times, and complex chemical processes.

The exhibition consists of over 80 photographs and photo albums from around 1850 to the beginning of the 20th century. The catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The catalogue costs DKK 200 and can be purchased in the museum shop, which also sells the lovely exhibition poster for DKK 40.

Text from The David Collection website [Online] Cited 24/03/2019

 

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Sir Donald Horne Macfarlane (July 1830 – 2 June 1904) was a Scottish merchant who entered politics and became a Member of Parliament (MP), firstly as a Home Rule League MP in Ireland and then as Liberal and Crofters Party MP in Scotland. Macfarlane was born in Scotland, the youngest son of Allan Macfarlane, J.P., of Caithness and his wife Margaret Horne. He became an East Indies merchant as a tea trader and indigo plantation owner. While in India he was a passionate amateur photographer. He experimented freely and produced semi-abstract images

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane. 'Elephants bathing' 1862 (detail)

 

Donald Horne Macfarlane (Scottish, 1830-1904)
Elephants bathing (detail)
1862
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30 cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
The Chattar Manzil Palace and the King of Oudh’s boat in the shape of a fish, Lucknow (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
24.8 × 30 cm (9 3/4 × 11 13/16 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of one of the Chattar Manzil [Umbrella Palaces] showing the King’s boat called The Royal Boat of Oude on the Gomti River, Lucknow, India.

The Chattar Manzil (Urdu: چھتر منزل‎, Hindi: छतर मंज़िल), or Umbrella Palace is a building in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh which served as a palace for the rulers of Awadh and their wives. It was constructed by order of NawabGhazi Uddin Haider and completed after his death by his successor, Nawab Nasir Uddin Haider.

The Chattar Manzil stand on the banks of the River Gomti. The Chattar Manzil consisted of a Bari (larger) Chattar Manzil and Chhoti (smaller) Chattar Manzil, however only the larger one still exists. These two buildings were examples of the Indo-European-Nawabi architectural style, even though the Bari Chattar Manzil has been altered over the years. The palaces were named after the chattris (umbrella-shaped domes) on the octagonal pavilions, which crown the buildings. The imposing building has large underground rooms and a dome surmounted by a gilt umbrella.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Felice Beato (1832 – 29 January 1909), also known as Felix Beato, was an Italian-British photographer. He was one of the first people to take photographs in East Asia and one of the first war photographers. He is noted for his genre works, portraits, and views and panoramas of the architecture and landscapes of Asia and the Mediterranean region. Beato’s travels gave him the opportunity to create images of countries, people, and events that were unfamiliar and remote to most people in Europe and North America. His work provides images of such events as the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the Second Opium War, and represents the first substantial body of photojournalism. He influenced other photographers, and his influence in Japan, where he taught and worked with numerous other photographers and artists, was particularly deep and lasting. …

In February 1858 Beato arrived in Calcutta and began travelling throughout Northern India to document the aftermath of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. During this time he produced possibly the first-ever photographic images of corpses. It is believed that for at least one of his photographs taken at the palace of Sikandar Bagh in Lucknow he had the skeletal remains of Indian rebels disinterred or rearranged to heighten the photograph’s dramatic impact17. He was also in the cities of Delhi, Cawnpore, Meerut, Benares, Amritsar, Agra, Simla, and Lahore. Beato was joined in July 1858 by his brother Antonio, who later left India, probably for health reasons, in December 1859. Antonio ended up in Egypt in 1860, setting up a photographic studio in Thebes in 1862.

Text from the Wikipedia website

17. Gartlan, Luke. “Felix Beato,” in Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography 2, p. 128.

 

Felice Beato. 'Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
Courtyard of the Sikandarbagh (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Interior of the Secundra Bagh after the Slaughter of 2,000 Rebels by the 93rd Highlanders and 4th Punjab Regiment. First Attack of Sir Colin Campbell in November 1857, Lucknow. Albumen silver print, by Felice Beato, 1858. Located on the outskirts of Lucknow, it was the scene of intense fighting in November, 1857. Following the action, the British dead were buried in a deep trench but the Indian corpses were left to rot. Later, the city had to be evacuated and was not recaptured until March 1858 and it was shortly afterwards that Beato probably took this photograph. As one contemporary commentator described it: “A few of their [rebel] bones and skulls are to be seen in front of the picture, but when I saw them every one was being regularly buried, so I presume the dogs dug them up.” A British officer, Sir George Campbell, noted in his memoirs Beato’s presence in Lucknow and stated that he probably had the bones uncovered to be photographed. However, William Howard Russell of The Times recorded seeing many skeletons still lying around in April 1858 Photographic views of Lucknow taken after the Indian Mutiny, Albumen silver print 26.2 x 29.8 cm. The image was taken by Felice Beato, a Corfiote by birth, who visited India during the period of the Indian Mutiny or First War of Indian Independence; possibly on a commissioned by the War Office in London he made documentary photographs showing the damage to the buildings in Lucknow following the two sieges. It is known that he was in Lucknow in March and April of 1858 within a few weeks of the capture of that city by British forces under Sir Colin Campbell. His equipment was a large box camera using 10″ x 12″ plates which needed a long exposure, and he made over 60 photographs of places in the city connected with the military events. Beato also visited Delhi, Cawnpore and other ‘Mutiny’ sites where he took photographs.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909) 'A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli' 1858 (detail)

 

Felice Beato (Italian-British, 1832-1909)
A mosque in the Red Fort, Dehli (detail)
1858
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

Samuel Bourne (English, 1834-1912) 'Alai Darwaza at the Qutb, Delhi' c. 1864

 

Samuel Bourne (English, 1834-1912)
Alai Darwaza at the Qutb, Delhi [Ala-ood-deen’s Gateway]
c. 1864
Albumen silver print
23.7 × 29.8 cm (9 5/16 × 11 3/4 in.)
© The David Collection

 

 

View of the front facade of the Alai Darwaza gatehouse at the Qutb complex in Delhi. The building is almost entirely covered with intricately carved geometric and floral patterns, which also adorn the pierced latticework screens that cover the arched windows flanking the archway over the entrance.

This photograph shows a gateway into the extended Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque. Known as the Alai Darwaza, it was built in 1311 by the Afgan ruler Alauddin Khalji. He had grand plans to extend the original mosque. Most of them were abandoned after his death in 1315, but this gateway is the most notable addition he made. It is 17.2 metres square.

The mosque and gateway are made out of rubble. It is the first of many Indian Islamic monuments to use a combination of white marble and red sandstone for the façade. Its distinctive features are the use of symmetry and the finely carved calligraphic and arabesque decoration on the southern façade of the gateway. This is also the first monument in which a true arch, using the radiating voussoirs shown here, is fully integrated into the design. The design is influenced by the architectural traditions of the empire of the Saljugs from western Asia.

The British photographer Samuel Bourne lived and worked in India between 1862 and 1869. During this time he toured the Himalayas and travelled through the subcontinent, photographing its landscape, architecture and historical sites. He set up a studio in Simla with Charles Shepherd and sold his prints sold to an eager public both in India and Britain.

Text from the V&A website

 

The Qutb complex are monuments and buildings from the Delhi Sultanate at Mehrauli in Delhi in India. The Qutub Minar in the complex, named after Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, was built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who later became the first Sultan of Delhi of the Mamluk dynasty. The Minar was added upon by his successor Iltutmish (a.k.a. Altamash), and much later by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, a Sultan of Delhi from the Tughlaq dynasty in 1368 AD. The Qubbat-ul-Islam Mosque (Dome of Islam), later corrupted into Quwwat-ul Islam, stands next to the Qutb Minar.

Many subsequent rulers, including the Tughlaqs, Alauddin Khalji and the British added structures to the complex. Apart from the Qutb Minar and the Quwwat ul-Islam Mosque, other structures in the complex include the Alai Gate, the Alai Minar, the Iron pillar, the ruins of several earlier Jain temples, and the tombs of Iltutmish, Alauddin Khalji and Imam Zamin.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Unknown photographer. 'View from the entrance gateway of Akbar's Tomb, Sikandra' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
View from the entrance gateway of Akbar’s Tomb, Sikandra
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Akbar’s tomb is the tomb of the Mughal emperor, Akbar and an important Mughal architectural masterpiece. It was built in 1604-1613 and is situated in 119 acres of grounds in Sikandra, a sub of Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

 

 

The first photographs from India

The David Collection’s new special exhibition provides a hitherto unknown first-hand impression of 19th-century India, primarily – but not exclusively – seen with the eyes of western photographers. Through original vintage photographs, the viewer is taken back to photography’s birth and earliest childhood and up to around 1900.

Photography had made a breakthrough in British-dominated India in the early 1850s. With its magnificent architecture, exotic landscapes, and many different peoples and cultures, India offered fantastic motifs: splendid Islamic palaces, mosques, and sepulchral monuments. Princes, maharajas, ministers, and warriors in all their glory. But also an abundance of life among the common people, with everyone from stonemasons to snake charmers as well as elephants bathing in the Ganges.

Motifs of a completely different type that can be seen in the exhibition are those of the shattered palaces and dead warriors that spoke admonishingly of the rebellion against British rule in 1857-1858. The rebellion broke out after Muslim and Hindu soldiers had been forced by the British to use cartridges supposedly greased with fat from pigs and cows. These are some of history’s earliest war photographs, which in Europe served as the basis for newspaper illustrations.

The photographs were often taken under difficult working conditions. The heavy photo equipment had to be transported to distant regions along impassible roads, and its chemicals dried out in the tropical heat. The exposure time could be very long, and processing the negatives and the positives was often arduous.

Experiments were made with the new media by both visiting and local photo pioneers. The exhibition bears witness to the exchanges and competition between amateurs and the professional photographers whose studios popped up in innumerable places in India in the years up to 1900. The photographs also show how the new medium developed in the tension field between documentation and creative art form.

The over 80 works in the exhibition comprise photographs and photo albums, all of which were lent by the same private collection. The exhibition catalogue was written by the British photo historian John Falconer, who for many years was responsible for the photograph collections in the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. The author is one of the world’s leading specialists in this field and his catalogue provides a detailed and lively account of the photographers’ India in the 19th century and their photographic techniques.

 

Book

Under Indian Skies is the book behind the forthcoming exhibition of the same name, which opens at The David Collection on 23 November 2018. The book – and the exhibition – offer a previously unknown, first-hand impression of 19th-century India, as seen through the eyes of primarily Western photographers. At the beginning of the 1850s photography made its breakthrough in colonial India. With its impressive architecture, exotic landscapes and many different ethnic groups and cultures, the country offered fantastic motifs. The Indian architecture with its magnificent Islamic palaces and mausolea. Princes, maharajas, ministers and soldiers in all of their splendour. But also ordinary people and daily life: stone-cutters and woodcarvers, carpenters and dyers, daily life with the elephants that bathe in the Ganges, cotton harvesters and gardeners, acrobats, snake charmers, dancers, musicians and religious processions.

In the book we are led all the way back to the conception and early years of photography, just before 1850, and right up until around 1900, when the medium was long established. What is more, the book includes what may well be the first examples of war photography – the ruins and corpses left behind after a large, bloody uprising in the end of the 1850s, triggered when the British forced local Hindu and Muslim troops to use cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs.

The photographers travelling to India to undertake ‘reportage’ photography were akin to explorers and their journeys were difficult expeditions, during which with great effort – and an army of helpers – they surveyed the remotest regions. The photographs of the first decades were composed in much the same way as paintings from the same period. The technical challenges were immense and exposure times, for instance, were extremely long, so everything had to be planned to the smallest detail.

Under Indian Skies presents a riveting, kaleidoscopic picture of an India that for the most part has disappeared today. Some monuments are still standing and one might still see similar scenes there, but the present infrastructure and political circumstances are completely different to that time.

In addition to the presentation of eighty-three selected photographs, the book contains two essays, on the history of photography in India and early photographic processes respectively.

 

About the Author

John Falconer is a British historian of photography, who for many years was responsible for the photography collection at the British Library’s Indian and Oriental departments. He has written many books on early Indian photography and is one of the world’s leading specialists in this area.

Press release from The David Collection Cited 24/03/2019

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Under Indian Skies - 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection' at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Installation view of the exhibition Under Indian Skies – 19th-Century Photographs from a Private Collection at The David Collection, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Robert (1818-1872) and Harriet (1827-1907) Tytler. 'View at the Taj Mahal, Agra' 1858

 

Robert (1818-1872) and Harriet (1827-1907) Tytler
View at the Taj Mahal, Agra
1858
Calotype negative
510 x 400 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

Although Robert Tytler and his wife Harriet only took up photography after the Uprising of 1857-58, they managed to produce over 500 photographs of the sites of conflict in less than six months. Their use of very large paper negatives such as this, with the associated technical difficulties, was an ambitious choice for photographers new to the medium. The production of negatives of this size needed extremely large and unwieldy cameras, with consequently long exposures: a note on the back of this negative states that it required an exposure of twenty-five minutes. This decision probably owed much to the tuition the Tytlers received from the established photographer John Murray, who used a similar-sized camera and whose processing procedures they also adopted. This view (laterally reversed in the negative), is taken from outside the Taj Mahal complex from a position in front of the west gate (Fatehpuri Darwaza), looking north along the outer western wall towards the tomb of Fatehpuri Begum in the distance.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905) 'The Char Minar, Hyderabad' 1880s

 

Lala Deen Dayal (Indian, 1844-1905)
The Char Minar, Hyderabad
1880s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Lala Deen Dayal was trained as an engineer but took up photography around 1864. He entered government service in 1866, founded the firm “Lala Deen Dayal & Sons” in 1868, and was commissioned to photograph temples and palaces of India. In 1886, Dayal retired from government service and became a professional photographer, moving to Hyderabad, India to work for the Nizam of Hyderabad, who conferred the honorary title of “raja” upon him.

Text from the J. Paul Getty Museum website

 

The Charminar (“Four Minarets”), constructed in 1591, is a monument and mosque located in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. The landmark has become a global icon of Hyderabad, listed among the most recognised structures of India. Charminar has been a historical place with Mosque on the top floor for over 400 years and also known for its surrounding markets. It is one of the tourist attractions in Hyderabad. It is where many famous festivals are celebrated, such as Eid-ul-adha and Eid-ul-fitr.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886) 'Architecture at Beejapoor, London' 1866

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886)
Architecture at Beejapoor, London
1866
Album

 

Architecture at Beejapoor, an ancient Mahometan capital in the Bombay Presidency / photographed from drawings by Capt. P.D. Hart … ; with an historical and descriptive memoir by Captain Meadows Taylor ; and … notes by James Fergusson. 1866.

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886) 'Architecture at Beejapoor, London' 1866 (detail)

 

Meadows Taylor (1808-76) and James Fergusson (1808-1886)
“Malik-I-Mydan” – “The Master of the Plain.”
Architecture at Beejapoor, London (detail)
1866
Album

 

This gun was brought back from Ahmadnagar in the 17th century as a trophy of war and is thought to be the largest medieval cannon in the world.

 

Unknown photographer. 'Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia' c. 1859

 

Unknown photographer
Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia
c. 1859
Albumen silver print
200 x 166 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

The title of Sirdar (or Sardar), from the Persian for a commander, could apply to a wide variety of senior positions, either military or administrative. The precise role of this figure in the Maharajah of Gwalior’s administration has not been established: the term was also often used by the British in a more general sense in the nineteenth century to denote a nobleman.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Unknown photographer. 'Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia' c. 1859 (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Appah Sahib Augriah, Mahratta, Sirdar and relative of Scindia (detail)
c. 1859
Albumen silver print
200 x 166 mm
© The David Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a Rajput prince in armour' 1866

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a Rajput prince in armour
1866
Hand-coloured photograph (probably an albumen print)
214 x 138 mm
© The David Collection

 

 

This delicately hand-coloured image depicts a Rajput ruler wearing an elaborate eighteenth-century armour known as Chahelta Hazah (Coat of a Thousand Nails). The inscription (in a Rajasthani form of Hindi, written in Devanagari script) identifies the sitter as Maharaj Shri Savan (or Sovan) Singhji. While the photographer is not named, it states that ‘Shivlal the painter coloured it’ and supplies a date of late September 1866.

Text from the book Under Indian Skies

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a young Indian woman' 1870s

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a young Indian woman
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Unknown photographer. 'Portrait of a young Indian woman' 1870s (detail)

 

Unknown photographer
Portrait of a young Indian woman (detail)
1870s
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

Johnston and Hoffmann. 'Portrait of a young prince' c. 1900

 

Johnston and Hoffmann (Calcutta, 1882-1950s)
P. Johnston (Great Britain, died 1891)
Theodore Hoffmann (Germany? 1883 /1887 – India? 1921)
Portrait of a young prince
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

R.K. Brothers. 'Ruling group, probably from Bikaner' c. 1900

 

R.K. Brothers
Ruling group, probably from Bikaner
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

Bikaner is a city in the north Indian state of Rajasthan, east of the border with Pakistan. It’s surrounded by the Thar Desert. The city is known for the 16th-century Junagarh Fort, a huge complex of ornate buildings and halls. Within the fort, the Prachina Museum displays traditional textiles and royal portraits. Nearby, the Karni Mata Temple is home to many rats considered sacred by Hindu devotees.

 

R.K. Brothers. 'Ruling group, probably from Bikaner' c. 1900 (detail)

 

R.K. Brothers
Ruling group, probably from Bikaner (detail)
c. 1900
Albumen silver print
© The David Collection

 

 

The David Collection
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Denmark
Phone: +45 33 73 49 49

Opening hours
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Monday closed
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20
Jan
19

Exhibition: ‘Matthias Bruggmann. An Act of Unspeakable Violence’ at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne

Exhibition dates: 17th October 2018 – 27th January 2019

Curator: Lydia Dorner, Curator Assistant, Musée de l’Elysée

 

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Marmarita, Reef Homes, September 11 2013'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Marmarita, Reef Homes, September 11 2013
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

“The swimming pool at Al-Khair Hotel, above Marmarita. A number of the young men are from the Christian militia that protects Marmarita and helps besiege both the Krak des Chevaliers and al Husn, the Sunni village built around it. The Krak fell to the Syrian army in March 2014. Reuters, quoting Lebanese medical sources, reported that over forty of the opposition fighters fleeing the area were wounded in an ambush on the way out, with eight dead.”

 

 

These magnificent, thought provoking photographs by Swiss photographer Matthias Bruggmann take a critical look at the representation of the atrocities of war. The photographs won the Prix Elysée in 2017, awarded by the Musée de l’Elysée.

The photographs picture everyday life in what Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam has so aptly referred to as the “majority world” – that is, they attend to issues of critical importance in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Oceania… not Europe or America. They shine a light on the conflict that is taking place in Syria and the surrounding geographical area by offering an outsiders perspective, much as Robert Frank offered an outsiders perspective on American society as he travelled through the USA, the resultant photographs leading to the production of his famous book The Americans.

But here the stakes are much higher. Here, life hangs in the balance. The little girl with the blond hair balances on her father’s shoulders; a man in silhouette peers through his night scope while the stars of the cosmos hang in the night sky behind; a man fires his machine pistol by holding it above his head, his comrades sheltering behind rocks; while a young man sits on his haunches, hunched over, blindfolded, bruised and in handcuffs. Awaiting some unknown fate.

One image among these formal, classical photographs (a body of work which crosses over from photojournalism to contemporary artistic photography) is particularly disturbing. On the road, Iraq, September 24 2016 (below) shows a group of men much like the groups of men that can be seen in Baroque painting. One man addresses the viewer holding a mobile phone, his face a skeleton, mask; another four men hold mobile phones in various attitudes, recording the scene or looking into them; the man at left, with a gun thrusting down his leg, walks into the scene, while the one behind walks out of scene, left; in the distance at right, a machine gun is mounted on a tripod, with man walking out of scene, right; while at centre right a group of four men, one with a Union Jack flag on the crutch of his trousers (?!), gaze down at a recumbent figure, a figure that you don’t initially see when looking at the photograph, for every man is standing but for the blood soaked figure of death.

The photograph highlights the barrenness of the landscape and the symbolical values embedded in the scene (masculinity, war, guns, flags, mobile phones, bodies, attitudes, death), clues in a charade which the spectator solves volens nolens – unwilling (or) willing: like it or not. The truth is yelled at you, if you know how to interpret the symbols.

It’s the mundanity evidenced in most of these mise en scène that gets you in the guts, that stirs up my anger and feelings of sadness and regret. I am so over ugly, male energy, from whichever side, from wherever – used in the name of religion, nationalism, power and control – to rule the life of others. These photographs are like a sad lament, a prayer offered up to the human race to ask deliverance from distress, suffering, and pain. Indifference to the pain and suffering of others should not be an option, for “in difference”, “we look with respect to another culture or another people.” (Mr Massarwe)

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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

 

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Reef Idlib, February 20, 2013'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Reef Idlib, February 20, 2013
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

“Two men mourn their brother who died decapitated by a regime shell. The fear of bombings was such that families stopped organising large funerals.”

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'On the road Iraq September 24 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
On the road, Iraq, September 24 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

“Using toilet cleaner and a dental probe, middlemen clean ancient coins. Coins and other antiquities are exported throughout the region, mostly to Turkey, but also Lebanon and, in some cases, Jordan, from where silver shekels then make their way to the Jerusalem souvenir industry. The trickiest part is faking provenance so that the antiquities can enter the highly lucrative Western market – dealers in neighbouring countries would take a fifty percent cut on the sale for the procurement. The asking price for a Byzantine mosaic measuring around two square meters was between 1,500 and 2,000 dollars and smuggling it out to a neighbouring country cost around 4,000 dollars at that point. Many of the deals were carried out over WhatsApp, and Syrians were often double-crossed by unscrupulous foreign dealers. One of the men in this photograph later complained that a North American dealer had cost him a small fortune when he refused to pay up his share.”

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Reef Idlib, 3 May 2014 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann Talmenes. 'Reef Idlib 1 mai 2014'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Talmenes Reef Idlib 1 mai 2014
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

“The remains of a barrel of chlorine (Cl₂) that was dropped on a house from a helicopter. This is one of the hundred or so documented attacks using chemical agents that happened before and after the 2013 Ghouta bombings in Damascus that the United States estimates killed 1,429. The Syrian government was the only warring faction to have access to airpower, therefore it is unthinkable that anyone else dropped this barrel. A man who refused to give his name, presenting himself as the owner of the house and the father of two of the children killed in the bombing, explained that he was an employee of a government-run granary. When he went back to work, he said, men came and offered him to interview him on an official TV channel to say that Jabhat al-Nusra had dropped the bomb. He added that the men offered to give him money to rebuild his house in exchange. This attack, which killed 3 and wounded over 130, was extensively documented, both by Human Rights Watch and by Christoph Reuter in Germany’s Der Spiegel. As of mid-2018, the Syrian Archive also held over a dozen videos of the attack and its aftermath.”

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Kafr Souseh, Damascus, 5 May 2012'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Kafr Souseh, Damascus, 5 May 2012
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Desert, 20 September 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Desert, 20 September 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Desert, 20 September 2016' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Desert, 20 September 2016 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shinshirah, Reef Idlib, 19 May 2014 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

Matthias Bruggmann is the winner of the second edition of the Prix Elysée, with the support of Parmigiani Fleurier, for his project on Syria. Hoping to “bring, to Western viewers, a visceral comprehension of the intangible violence that underlies conflict”, he takes the gamble of hiding nothing in his explicit and brutal pictures. Taken in the field, they force the viewer to slow down and take stock of the war – geographically distant, admittedly, but made omnipresent by the media.

If the tens of thousands of pictures of torture taken by Syrian photographers do not attract the attention of a Western audience, what can a foreigner who doesn’t even speak Arabic hope to accomplish? The photographs of Matthias Bruggmann take a critical look at the representation of the atrocities of war. They give Westerners a more nuanced picture of the reality of an armed conflict and blur the boundaries between photojournalism and contemporary artistic photography.

Launched in 2012, his project plunges us into the complexity of the conflict. His images, which cover a geographic zone larger than Syria, question our moral assumptions and bring about a better understanding of the violence underlying this conflict.

Matthias Bruggmann explains: “Formally, my previous work put viewers in a position where they were asked to decide the nature of the work itself. A scientifically questionable analogy of this mechanism would be the observer effect in quantum physics, where the act of observing changes the nature of what is being observed. My Syrian work builds on this framework. From a documentation perspective, it is, thus far and to the best of my knowledge, unique as the work, inside Syria, of a single Western photographer, in large part thanks to the assistance and hard work of some of the best independent experts on the conflict. Because of the nature of this conflict, I believe it is necessary to expand the geographical scope of the work. At its core is an attempt at generating a sense of moral ambiguity. The design of this is to make viewers uneasy by challenging their own moral assumptions and, thus, attempt to bring, to Western viewers, a visceral comprehension of the intangible violence that underlies conflict. One of the means is by perverting the codes normally used in documentary photography to enhance identification with the subject.”

 

Biography

Matthias Bruggmann is a Swiss photographer who was born in Aixen-Provence in 1978. For the past 15 years, his work has focused on the different war zones throughout the world. After graduating from the Vevey School of Photography in 2003, he became interested very early on in the complexity of his profession in times of war. At the beginning of the 2000s, he accompanied the photojournalist Antonin Kratochvil, who covered the invasion of Iraq. This first experience provided him with the opportunity to explore the complex link between photojournalism and reality – what is actually grasped or described. Since that time, his personal projects have taken him to Egypt, Haiti, Libya and Somalia.

Matthias Bruggmann’s work was featured in the exhibition reGeneration: 50 photographers of tomorrow, organised by the Musée de l’Elysée in 2005, and he was part of the curatorial team for We Are All Photographers Now! presented at the museum in 2007. He is also one of the cofounders of the contemporary art space, Standard/Deluxe, in Lausanne. His photographs have been published in countless newspapers and magazines, including Le Monde, The Sunday Times, Time Magazine and National Geographic.

His work is included in a number of private collections, as well as the public collections of the Frac Midi-Pyrénées and the Musée de l’Elysée. His project on Syria received the Prix Elysée in 2017, awarded by the Musée de l’Elysée with the support of Parmigiani Fleurier. He is represented by the Contact Press Images agency and by the Galerie Polaris in Paris.

Press release from the Musée de l’Elysée website

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shirqat, Iraq, 22 September 2016 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Ghazi Ayaash, Deir ez-Zor, May 25, 2015'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Ghazi Ayaash, Deir ez-Zor, May 25, 2015
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Rabiah, Reef Hama, April 23, 2012'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Rabiah, Reef Hama, April 23, 2012
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Hadar, Reef Quneitra, August 7, 2015'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Hadar, Reef Quneitra, August 7, 2015
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

At the northern frontline between the Druze fighters and Jabhat al-Nusra, the older fighters teach the younger ones how to fight. Some of the fighters were in the security services, and either retired, or went absent without leave to defend their village.

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

Syria, 2012. In the old town of Homs, a group of fighters and activists meet to stage an allegorical piece written by one of them, who was, in his life, before the revolution, a known writer. In this piece, a lion (or assad, in Arabic …) has lost his voice, and mistreats the other animals to try to find it. The street next door is one of the most dangerous in the city, because it is the corner of government shooters.

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012' (detail)

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Bab Hud, Homs, May 26, 2012 (detail)
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Industrial City, Deir ez-Zor, May 5, 2015'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Industrial City, Deir ez-Zor, May 5, 2015
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

Matthias Bruggmann. 'Shirqat, Iraq, September 22, 2016'

 

Matthias Bruggmann
Shirqat, Iraq, September 22, 2016
© Matthias Bruggmann / Contact Press Images
Courtesy Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne and Galerie Polaris, Paris

 

 

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02
Nov
18

Text: Marcus Bunyan. ‘Death and the image’ 2018

November 2018

 

This text was written in 2017 for a special issue of the international magazine Text on the subject ‘Writing Trauma’. While the text was accepted, the peer-reviewers wanted heavy revisions, including reordering the piece and editing out my personal stories. At the time, I was going into hospital for an operation on my hand and such revisions were impossible to undertake.

Now, over a year later, I have reread the text… and I have amended and extended it, but otherwise I am going to leave it as I wrote it in the first place. I like the way I write and I like my personal stories. While it is a long read the writing addresses an important subject with, I hope, some interesting insights along the way.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 8,137

Download Death and the image (4.3Mb pdf)

 

 

Abstract

This text investigates how the act of photography visually writes trauma. Through an analysis of the context of images of death by artists such as Alphonse Bertillon, Robert Capa, Alexander Gardner, and Walker Evans the paper ponders how the camera captures human beings ante-mortem, at the death point, post-mortem and vita ad mortem.

It seeks to understand that line between presence and absence where life was there… and now death is in its place. Death was one step removed, now it is present. How does the act and performance of photography depict the trauma of death, this double death (for the photograph is a memento mori and/or the person in the photograph may already know that they are going to die).

“The text of eternity that the photograph proposes, imparts and imposes a paradoxical state of loss. The secret of telling truth in a photograph is that the more truthful, “the more orgasmic, the more pleasurable, the more suicidal” the pronouncement of the perfect paradox (you are dead but also alive) … then the more we are strangled while uttering it. The language of deferral in the writing of trauma in death and the image becomes the dissolve that seizes the subject in the midst of an eternal bliss. In death and the image we may actually die (be)coming.”

Keywords

Trauma, photography, death, art, memento mori, war, execution, memory, victim, representation, Alphonse Bertillon, Robert Capa, Alexander Gardner, Walker Evans, ante-mortem, point of death, death point, post-mortem, punctum, empathy, vita ad mortem, life after death.

 

 

Death and the image

 

 

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“Photography, because it stops the flow of life, is always flirting with death…”

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John Berger1

 

“On the most fundamental level there are transitions from continuous to discontinuous or from discontinuous to continuous. We are discontinuous beings, individuals who perish in isolation in the midst of an incomprehensible adventure, but we yearn for our lost continuity. We find the state of affairs that binds us to our random and ephemeral individuality hard to bear. Along with our tormenting desire that this evanescent thing should last, there stands our obsession with a primal continuity linking us with everything that is.”

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Georges Bataille2

 

 

German Gen. Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution

 

“German General Anton Dostler is tied to a stake before his execution by a firing squad in the Aversa stockade. The General was convicted and sentenced to death by an American military tribunal. Aversa, Italy.” Blomgren, December 1, 1945. 111-SC-225295. National Archives Identifier: 531326

 

 

 

Trial and Execution of General Anton Dostler

The still photograph (above) can be seen being taken by the flash from a still camera that occurs at 5.16 secs in the YouTube film. The photographer can then be seen walking off. Later in the film another angle of the execution is shown, again with the flash of the absent camera recorded, starting at 7.10 secs. The displacement of time and space, between one point of view and another, with the absence of the still camera in both instances (in the image and in the film), is uncanny.
* See additional image of Dostler’s execution taken from a different perspective in the Addendum section of this text.

 

 

1

One of life’s recurrent themes is mortality. As Bataille notes, we are discontinuous beings: we live, we breathe, and we die. Photography’s recurrent theme is also mortality. In a ghostly evocation, the medium possesses an odour of death that sticks in the throat. So how then does photography visually write the trauma of death – over time, through space, in different contexts, with multiple narratives and different points of view?

As a first point of reference, we need to define trauma. Trauma can be an injury to living tissue; a disordered psychic or behavioural state resulting from severe mental or emotional stress or physical injury; an emotional upset and an agent, force or mechanism that causes all or any of these conditions.3 Atkinson and Richardson note that the work of theorists such as Nicolas Abraham, Maria Torok, Shoshana Felman, Dori Laub, Dominick LaCapra, and Cathy Caruth in broad terms view trauma,

“… as the delayed manifestation of a psychic wound sustained during an experience that has happened too quickly to allow registration and processing of the event at the time of its occurrence. To study trauma in literary or cultural terms, then, is to be concerned with the tension between what is known and what is not known, and with the impact and dynamics of the woundedness and machinations of trauma – not only its purely physical instantiation, but in all its reverberations. This is what brings the study of trauma to the uncertainty of truth, the impossibility of bearing absolute witness to catastrophe, the multiplicity of historical narratives.”4

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Constitutive of trauma and its affects is the “piercing of the psychic shield” which protects a fragile subjectivity leaving in its wake shattered individuals, communities and even whole nations.5 Further, Michalinos Zembylas citing Kaplan (2005) notes that “an important distinction that needs to be made here is one’s positioning and context of encountering trauma,”6 between being a primary or secondary witness. Personally, I believe that a testimony (a formal written or spoken statement that something is true) in the first instance… becomes a testament (something that serves as a sign or evidence of a specified fact) in the second.

When looking death in the face, we can state that death is a trauma not only for the physical body and the psyche of the person involved (the direct trauma victim), but also for the witness of the event, be they a primary witness – one who actually witnesses the traumatic event – or a secondary witness, a person “who has no personal connection to the victim but may encounter trauma through other sources such as the media and oral or written accounts of a catastrophe.”7

These secondary encounters can never be the actual experience of trauma but, acting through language (be it oral, written or visual), they may embody sensations that stimulate feelings and thoughts in the secondary observer. A social construction of a testament may produce an empathetic engagement in viewers as “secondary witnesses.”8 Through an understanding of spectatorship, experience, aesthetic effects, narrative strategies and temporal shifts in the polyvocal nature of language we can begin to understand how the affect of secondary traumatisation – on memory, history and the body – can break down the subject-object dichotomy, can break down the realist norms of representation to produce “a mode of cognition involving sensuous, somatic and tactile forms of perception.”9 Here language (the photograph in this case, reinforced by the title of the photograph) stands in for that which is absent, but it is not in opposition to an intensity of feeling. The language of the photograph can intensify the affect of the image, especially if the photograph becomes transcendent, embodied, in the vitality and “aliveness” of the viewer.10

This mimetic experience “promotes a critical and self-reflexive empathy” and knowledge in the secondary witness that LaCapra observes is a “virtual, not vicarious, experience … in which emotional response comes with respect for the other and the realization that the experience of the other is not one’s own.”11 Essentially, this is a social concept, a social construction of reality, a matrix-like view of the world that draws on relational and contextual dimensions for understanding trauma. This concept requires careful consideration of issues related to history, culture, race, gender, ideology, beliefs, agency and power.

“From a social constructionist and narrative perspective, people reconstruct their selves through the stories they tell about their past and the meaning they ascribe to the present in anticipation of the future. They shape their stories through active and creative interpretation of their lives and are in turn shaped by these stories. However, the self is not only a product of narratives. People are purposeful and moral beings, having the power and agency to change scripts, discourses and ideologies…”12

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Here we can ask, what are the machinations of the image in the affective dynamics of photographs of trauma and how are they situated in a certain relation to trauma? What do photographs actually do that give rise to a way of thinking and feeling about trauma?

Although no representation can fully describe the first hand experience of trauma because of the partial nature of language – its gaps, elisions and impossibilities of speech13 – it is because of these very gaps that new spaces of interpretation can open up. Rather than just representing the perceived reality of trauma (this happened, at this time, in this location – an ordering of reality), images have the unique ability to transcend their indexical relationship to the real, pointing and touching (as if with the index finger) to the relationality of trauma as it touches human emotion. With its ability to police and regulate it subject, the implicit violence of photography is a predatory means of taking possession of both its victim (the subject) and its viewer.

Anna Gibbs has stated that we live, “in a more or less continuous state of mediatized emergency and traumatic aftermath, desensitized by the onslaught of images … to the affect we ought to feel.”14 I strongly disagree. I would argue that the traumatic numbing15 and supposed “death of experience”16 allegedly present in the world of image circulation, translation, and accumulation only occurs if the witness lets it be so.

Personally, I believe that something in the image is transferred to the witness pre-cognition – intuitively, imaginatively – which can then be interpreted cognitively and relationally with regard to history and memory, art and culture, politics and experience through an orthogonal movement through time and space. As viewers and interpreters, we are not fixed at a particular point in time and space, nor do we observe from one particular point of view. Our existential engagement provides a space to close the gap between affect and enunciation.

“Facts can vibrate; they can give of colors, sounds, smells, images. To talk of these facts with no recognition of this is to lack any awareness of the act of enunciation, of the gaps between language and experience and the unpredictable ways that sparks can break out of language, leap across the gap and ignite the tinderbox of traumatic memory.”17

 

2

Surfing Pinterest (a photo sharing website) recently, I absentmindedly clicked on an abstract image of three hanging black shapes from the pantheon of image tiles that presented itself to me. Up popped this horrific image of three Afro-Americans who had been lynched in the Southern United States in the 1920s. I was shocked and dismayed. I had such a strong emotional reaction to the image. But more than that, my feelings and memories of the bigotry that I had faced as a young gay man growing up in the 1970s swelled in my consciousness. This story is a example of how exposure to an image can bring to the surface unresolved aspects of being ‘Other’, of being different, and being persecuted for that difference. I thought about the lives of these people that had led them to that point, their families, their histories and the terror that they must have experienced on that day. You cannot begin to understand that, but you can have empathy and anger against the systems of racism and bigotry that exist in the world.

Then the cognitive part of my brain linked the image to a report I had only just seen a few days before on lynching, which told of the thousands of Afro-Americans who had been killed between 1882 and 1968.18 Mentally, I then linked this to a Facebook posting which put forward the analogy that the current killing of Afro-Americans by police in the United States was akin to a contemporary and publicly endorsed and enforced form of lynching. Finally, in my head I heard Billie Holiday singing that famous song Strange Fruit, “a dark and profound song about the lynching of African Americans in the Southern United States during the Jim Crow Era, “strange fruit,” as they hang from trees, rotting in the sun, blowing in the wind, and becoming food for crows upon being burned.”19 I watched the video of Billie Holiday singing this song on YouTube.20 Every time I think of this image I have these associations of animate thought intrinsic to the original experience,21 where the micro and macro conditions of production work to “embody and register trauma,”22 a communicable language of sensation and affect, time and time again.

 

 

Billie Holiday – Strange fruit

 

 

These chains of affect, the nexus between affect / feeling / emotion / cognition, are a form of synaesthesia where facts, emotions, feelings, memories, sounds and images vibrate against each other as an active and continuous engagement of the self with the world in which one lives. In a human being who is un/consciously aware, these real and mediated experiences may encourage a sensory intensification that elicits thought and empathic vision in the materiality of embodied experience, something (the punctum?) that takes us out of our selves into a higher register of being.

As part of this system of impressions, of an instantaneous, affective response triggered by an image,23 photographs force us to engage visually and involuntarily. “Impressions that force us to look, encounters which force us to interpret, expressions which force us to think.”24 Encounters which force us to comprehend. The conjunction of affect and critical awareness “constitute the basis of an empathy grounded … on a feeling for another that entails an encounter with something irreducible and different, often inaccessible.”25 This combination of affective and intellectual operations – about forcing oneself to look (and that process of looking/surrendering) but never forgetting your ‘point of view’, your memory, history and identity, is when empathy becomes that process of surrender, “but also the catch that transforms your perception.”26 How is this “catch” enunciated in photographs? I now want to look at a few images that explicate these phenomena.

 

Ante-mortem: present but absent

3

With the invention of photography in the late 1830s, the photograph as memento mori allows the spectator to observe death not at first hand, but through the representation of the image “taken from life.” Photographs provide a verification of reality through their apparent verisimilitude, while being woven into narratives – oral, textual, intertextual, spatial and temporal – that frame the event in multiple ways.

“Photographs … have come to stand in for reality … despite the fact that it is relatively easy to manipulate their meaning. As a result of their ability to project reality, images, and particularly those that depict death and destruction, are seen as potentially powerful pieces of documentary evidence…”27

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Photographs are embedded in “a context of the cultural circumstances at the time, and therefore exist rarely in isolation or without meaning”28 and can be seen as having a denotative level (what they physically represent) and a connotative level (the meanings attached to that representation).29 Photography quickly changed how death was displayed because it introduced a “reality” and immediacy of representation that was democratic, personal and everyday.30

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
Lewis Paine
26th April 1865
Albumen silver print from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

An example of the personal, everyday and documentary nature of photography can be seen in the photograph taken by Alexander Gardner in April 1865. This portrait is of Lewis Thornton Powell (aka Lewis Payne or Paine) who was one of the conspirators in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln which occurred the same month. The photograph has a background of dark metal, and was taken on one of the ironclads U.S.S. Montauk or Saugus, where the conspirators were for a time confined. The reality is Paine was executed in July 1865 just eight short weeks after this photograph was taken, so in effect (and in the affect on us of this knowledge), he is (already) a dead man walking. This is a double death – that death buried in the very act of taking any photograph, La petite mort or “the little death,” an idiom and euphemism for the orgasm of the photographic time freeze; and the fact that we know that he was going to die, those short weeks later.

The photograph forms the central panel of a three-panel Renaissance-like altarpiece, the form in which the three photographs are usually displayed. The left and right hand photographs were taken within minutes of each other, with the camera in the same position, whereas in the centre photograph the camera has been lowered to show more of the body, and the image has been cropped at the top. In the central plate the figure of Paine has been raised up in the frame – almost prematurely brought back to life by his placement. The centre image is the only one where Paine stares directly at the camera. He surveys the viewer with a gaze I find enigmatic.

 

Alexander Gardner. 'Lewis Paine' 26th April, 1865

 

Alexander Gardner (1821-1882)
Three photographs of Lewis Paine
26th April, 1865
Albumen silver prints from a Collodion glass plate negative

 

 

This is a very modern face, a very contemporary face. His hair is similar to Justin Beiber’s. Who brushed his hair across for this picture, and would it normally be this long, or has it just been ignored because of his fate? He still has good muscle tone – has he been exercising in his ironclad cell? And finally, his clothing – are they navy issue, as his top appears to have been given to him, perhaps the coarse, navy blue wool of the Northern states. If we were to place this image within the metaphysical school of photography which peaked with Paul Caponigro and Minor White we could say: Hovering above his head, has his spirit already begun to leave his body?

One reading of his gaze is that he is interested in what the photographer is doing – almost the gaze of an apprentice wanting to apply these skills in the future. Given his fate is he insane because of his interest? Another reading could be that he is looking out to the future in the hope of finding that he will be judged in another way. And another is the immediacy of his gaze – it is a gaze that is happening now!

The other thing that I find mysterious is the distance of the photographer from the subject. Was it fear or the presence of the guards that stopped Gardner getting any closer, or are there deck fittings we cannot see that prevented his approach. Imagine being Paine, having a photographer point a damn great view camera at you, documenting your countenance for prosperity. What was going on in Paine’s mind – what is his perspective on this performance by the photographer? And what brought Paine to this place?

Michel Foucault calls the methods and techniques by which human beings constitute themselves, “technologies of the self.” Foucault argued that we as subjects are perpetually engaged in processes whereby we define and produce our own ethical self-understanding. According to Foucault, technologies of the self are the forms of knowledge and strategies that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of immortality.”31 As we look into his eyes he knows that we know he is going to die, has already died but the intensity of that knowledge is brought into present time. In this instant, what Paine emanates is a form of i-mortality.

Roland Barthes in his seminal work Camera Lucida observes in Section 39:

“He is dead and he is going to die… The photograph is handsome, as is the boy: that is the studium. But the punctum is: he is going to die. I read at the same time: this will be and this has been; I observe with horror an anterior future of which death is the stake. By giving me the absolute past of the pose, the photograph tells me death in the future. What pricks me is the discovery of this equivalence.”32

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This is Barthes anterior future, a moment where truth is interpreted in the mind of the photographer, not out there but in here (your head and your heart), where past, present and future coalesce into a single point in time: his death and our death connected through his gaze, and the knowledge of our joint discontinuity. In this moment in time, what we are doing is making a list about the human condition when we talk about something that is remarkable. Language can never fully describe the human condition, much as it may try… and this is why this photograph is remarkable, because it is ineffable, unknowable. The photograph inhabits you; it haunts you like few others, because it is a memoriam to a young man and his present death. Here he is present but absent at one and the same time.

As such, this is an image as triple death – the death of the photograph (past time / memento mori / remembrance of death), the death of the person in the photograph and also a third death, the knowledge that Paine is going to die. Death, like life, can be cyclical. This is the catch that transforms your perception, in Barthes terms the punctum of the image, in which the wounding, personally touching detail (past pose, future death) establishes a direct relationship with the object or person within it.

“The punctum (a Latin word derived from the Greek word for trauma [my emphasis]) … inspires an intensely private meaning, one that is suddenly, unexpectedly recognized and consequently remembered (it “shoots out of [the photograph] like an arrow and pierces me”); it ‘escapes’ language (like Lacan’s real); it is not easily communicable through/with language. The punctum is ‘historical’ as an experience of the irrefutable indexicality of the photograph (its contingency upon a referent). The punctum is a detail or “partial object” that attracts and holds the viewer’s (the Spectator’s) gaze; it pricks or wounds the observer.”33

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This trauma, prick or wound that lifts the viewer out of themselves, out of their everyday existence, “points to those features of a photograph that seem to produce or convey a meaning without invoking any recognizable symbolic system. This kind of meaning is unique to the response of the individual viewer of the image.”34 This punctum also accounts for the importance of emotion and subjectivity in interacting with photographs; memory of that photograph displaces it from its moment of origin.35 Photography enacts the trauma of death even while being enacted upon.

Now we can read Eduardo Cadava’s comments on Walter Benjamin’s analysis of the photograph:

“As Benjamin suggests … the photograph, like the souvenir, is the corpse of an experience. A photograph therefore speaks as death, as the trace of what passes into history. I, the photograph, the spaced out limit between life and death, I, the photograph, am death. Yet, speaking as death, the photograph can be neither death nor itself. At once dead and alive, it opens the possibility of our being in time.