One thing that’s particularly interesting about how Maya Lin was able to be the designer of the Vietnam War Memorial is how that she was able to do it as part of a class project she was doing at Yale, and not for the competition, so it was just designed the way she thought it should look like. The design and her inspiration for the project came from and architectural seminar course where they focused on funeral architectural design and how people expressed their emotions through funerary constructions. In her quest to come up with a great design, she made the decision to not do any specific research regarding the Vietnam war, and the political strife that surrounded it either. She believed that politics had eclipsed everything the veterans had done with giving their lives for their country.
At her school she talks about how the power of a name is extremely important, and at Yale they have at Memorial Rotunda inscribed with all the alumni that have been killed in wars. Another memorial that made a lasting impression on her and aroused her curiosity was the monument of the missing soldiers of the WWI battle of the Somme by Sir Edwin Lutyens. This monument included over 10,000 names of people who were missing because they couldn’t be identified, “the memorial acknowledged those lives without focusing on the war or on creating a political statement of victory or loss. This apolitical approach became the essential aim of my design; i did not want to civilize war by glorifying it or by forgetting the sacrifices involved. The price of a human in war should always be clearly remembered. This is why her design was a display suspended above ground that just listed the names of all the fallen soldiers in battle, and served as a way of remembering them while not glorifying war in any way with the execution.
Making the Memorial. https://2017arth4919.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/maya-lin-making-the-memorial.pdf (Accessed April 29, 2017)
War/Photography is an exhibition that happened at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington. “It has the usual array of iconic war photographs: the falling soldier during the Spanish Civil War, Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima and the Vietnamese general executing a suspected Viet Cong member.” This exhibition included numerous renowned photographers from around the world dating back to photos taken in the 1800’s. In this review, it explains that strength of the exhibition isn’t the specifics, but how the presentation makes a collective whole and tells a war story. This exhibition connects more than 309 different photos, from 25 nationalities, from wars that have been spanning for nearly the last 200 years. Tucker talks about how there was a culmination of a million images they had to strategically pick in order to make the exhibition flow well together. Walking through the gallery, each section is differentiated by themes, and aspects of war such as things from recruiting, medical care, fighting, prayer, and more.
One piece included in the exhibition is a piece called Aftermath: Shell Shock and Exhaustion, where it shows an image taken my Don McCullin of a shell shocked soldier in 1968, which hangs several frames away from a piece done by Luis Sinco titled Malbaro Marine. These photos had been taken nearly 40 plus years apart, but relate so much to each other with the similar gazes they share on their face suggesting the horrors that they had witnessed during war. “Wars don’t end, you carry them with you. our fathers’ wars are our wars and our wars are our children’s wars.
The Picture Show. http://www.npr.org/sections/pictureshow/2013/07/12/201327477/what-do-cameras-and-combat-have-in-common (Accessed April 29th, 2017)
Taryn Simons typical media of work usually deals with both text and photography, but in this piece An Occupation of Loss, she makes an installation that’s meant to be a performance piece. This installation she did was done alongside Shohei Shigematsu at the Office of Metropolitan Architecture. They were able to get thirty different mourners from fifteen different countries to sit in the semi circle of eleven concrete towers at the Park Avenue Armory. The towers recall the pipes of an organ, where visitors who enter the are exposed to a live performance activating the “dirges, songs, and weeping of the professionals within.”
This piece ties into the themes of government bureaucracy and social realism, where Taryn Simons would bring in these thirty different people from fifteen different countries all to New York City. One of the hardest aspects about this project for her was all of the documentation paperwork she had to go through of getting these people visas, which she said ended up being more than a foot high tall of papers. “The documentation of the visa process serves as a shadow accompaniment to the show, both a reminder of the administration that often accompanies death, and Simon said of authority and how it’s establish and the systems that we create and also adhere to, to organize ourselves.” In the performance each mourner had their own individual style of mourning that they brought to portray to the audience what mourning is like in different cultures from the rituals themselves to what clothing they wear too.
Taryn Simon’s Varieties of Mourning. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/taryn-simons-varieties-of-mourning (Accessed April 29, 2017)
This picture is the last picture that John D McHugh was able to take before he had been shot while photographing the battle. He had been embedded with the US soldiers in Nuristan for several weeks when they had gone to help a fellow unit of soldiers who had been ambushed. He recalls seeing bodies on the road with people who were already dead, while there were also people writhing in pain. All of the sudden the Taliban started shooting from the mountains and he quickly jumped behind a rock panicking.
As soon as the shots kept firing, they all retreated behind a Humvee where bullets were swarming from everywhere, and at this point he had already acknowledged the chances of him getting shot. He recalled the bullets flying through the air sounding like a swarm of bees. Eventually a bullet went through his ribs and out of his lower back. He explained the entry wound was the size of a penny, and the exit bigger than the palm of his hand, while he was convinced he was about to end up dying on the battlefield while trying to photograph the war. He kept thinking the worst, like, “what if i don’t die, and i’m paralysed for the rest of my life?” It had been 25 minutes before anyone could get to him, and as he was being picked up he reached to grab the camera he had fallen on the ground. The medic joked to him about his injury, saying “hell I can see right through you,” he then at this point knew he would recover. “I love my job but getting shot made me think about life beyond work. I proposed to my girlfriend two months later, and we had a baby last year.” This near death encounter help shape Johns photographic and family career.
The shot that nearly killed me. https://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/18/war-photographers-special-report (Accessed April 28, 2017)
In this article written by Melanie Abrams, she talks about Robert Capa and how he had defined the image of war photography. Ever since this she talks about how conflict photography has been seen more as a man’s job, while the stories of women war photographers have been put to the side. In the article she begins to explain that today there are far more women who are able to photograph in war zones, such as Susan Meiselas, however the amount of female war photographers in the Magnum photo agency only totals 7 out of a total 79 international photographers, showing how minimized a women’s role is in war photography.
Explained by British photographer Jenny Matthews who see’s much more women in the photojournalist realm now, but women are stilled outweighed by men. “It is much harder for women, because of the assumption that we don’t have the killer instinct, or the persistence to hang around in the rain with a heavy bag.” A lot of the limitations she’s talking about are physical, and a stereotype of how men are the only ones capable of carrying large amounts of equipment while traversing through treacherous war infested terrain. Meiselas recalls while she was working in Nicaragua and El Salvador that working in the war zone isn’t just a physical toll but also an emotionally demanding one too, where you have to be aware of the dangers on the streets.
Meislas thinks that women can sometimes be accused of having emotions interfere with their work. She also points out differences between male and female photographers: “Women sometimes think of better ways to capture a story. We look behind the action and have different priorities, such as the human interest.” She talks about how that twenty years ago there were rarely any images of women who were left behind in conflict zones, but now you can see women in refugee camps all the time working the same way as the men do.
From the fringes to the frontline. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2008/nov/17/women-photography-war-exhibition-barbican (Accessed April 28, 2017)