War/Photography Review- Reading Response

The NPR article reviews the exhibition War/Photography at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington in 2013. The exhibition exhibited photography dating back to the 1800’s and some of the most well-known photo’s including soldiers raising the flag and Iwo Jima and photographs from the Spanish Civil War. The author, Amaria, however describes the way the exhibition was curated by curator Anne Tucker as something that made it remarkable.

The exhibition is organized “in the order of war” according to curator Tucker. For example one part of the gallery was titled “Aftermath: Shell Shock and Exhaustion” which contained pictures going beyond the war into its aftermath. The images are therefore connected through patterns and themes not chronologically or by the war they were made during. Tucker wanted the exhibition to open up conversation between visitors by presenting the subject in such a different way than usual, and allowed a room for feedback from visitors entitled “Reflection.”


Maya Lin-Making the Memorial-Schuyler DeMarinis-Reading #10

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial created by Maya Lin 1982 originally as a class project turned out to be a pivotal point in designing of memorials. Lin describes making the proposal simply for herself and nobody else. She never even considered submitting it to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. Like the memorial apparently projects, it is meant to be a slash or cut into the earth. Lin describes it as a surface or the moment where light and dark meet. The blackness of the granite is not meant to be a color but a mirrored surface where you can experience a fallen soldiers name through yourself.


Vietnam Veterans Memorial

   This idea of cutting away at the earth, memorializing the loss and pain of those who served for our country was new. Previously memorials were erected high and proudly, to commemorate those who gave their lives. By cutting into the earth and creating a void Lin is creating a space for visitors to mourn or experience emotion. Lin described this as “the memorial worked more on an emotional level than a formal level.” I think that this is an essential aspect for memorials in order for them to be successful to their visitors.

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National September 11 Memorial and Museum

   The National September 11 Memorial and Museum is another example of creating a void in the earth. This void happens to be in the center of one of the busiest cities on earth. The architects in this piece created a space where you can truly feel loss as the water flows deep into black whole in the city center. The names also bring a personal touch. There is always some criticism or critique on using names in memorials for any such reason that a person can make up. I find it to be successful.


Memorial Rotunda at Yale

   Lin included names in her work initially because of the emotional response she got when visiting Yale’s Memorial Rotunda for the alumni killed in war. She describes it at the “power of the name.” I think the more we listen to these artist talk about their work the more we can understand and appreciate it for what it is, rather than find something that is wrong with it.


Vietnam Veterans Memorial

From Fringes to the Frontline: Melanie Abrams

Since the 1930’s Robert Capa has been described as defining war photography and how it should be approached. Ever sine it left a mark on the medium that has implied that war photography was essentially a mans job. “Women war photographers have been largely sidelined.” says Abrams, but todays generation has way more women working in war zones and with in warfare than there was in the 1930s.

Susan Meiselas, a U.S. photographer known for her photography of Nicaragua’s 1970’s civil war, is only one of seven women at the Magnum photo agency, out of a total of 79 international photographers. British photographer Jenny Mathews explains its harder for women to integrate themselves into war photography because of the assumption among men that women “don’t have the killer instinct, or the the persistence to hang around in the rain with a heavy bag.”

Women photojournalists may find themselves patronized but this works to their advantage. “Though the secrete service was on our case, we were not taken seriously because we were women. It helped us get around and get our story.” says Mathews. Susan Measles agrees with the same kind of statement, and claims “Women have the advantage of being less threatening. So I could go into the homes (of Sandinista rebels) if given permission, and take photos because that is were the wounded were taken.” Every photographer regardless of gender is driven by the desire to take one image that captures the moment in the most powerful way. Julian Edelstein says “When you’re in it, you’re doing the job…you don’t think about being a woman.”




James E. Young: The Holocaust as Vicarious Past

In James E. Young’s The Holocaust as Vicarious Past he explores the way that this generation of artists is engaging with the Holocuast. Because these artists never directly experienced the Holocaust, they draw upon the collective memory to create their art. Instead of drawing upon memories of survivors, contemporary artists are drawing on their own personal relationship to the Holocaust and not trying to repeat the memories that belong to someone else. These artists are still connected to the Holocaust, however they portray the Holocaust as a “vicarious past”.

Young looks specifically at the work of David Levinthal in this context. Levinthal uses vintage nazi era toys and arranges them in different battle scenes. Instead of photographing the historical realities, Levinthal arranges his toys into tableaux because that is the only reality of the Holocaust he knows. Levintahl chooses to limit his work to his knowledge from textbooks and history lessons, and thus creates a new conversation about the Holocaust and the relation it has to people today.

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Young also addresses the issue that these artworks are “self indulgent by a generation more absorbed in its own vicarious experiences of memory than by the survivors experiences of real events.” While it is a fair argument to make that these artists should be making art about the Holocaust, rather than about themselves. These artists draw entirely off collective memory and thus don’t know anything directly about the Holocaust. Personally creating art about the Holocaust despite having a direct connection to it enters into the territory of an inauthentic representation. While this can be it’s own valid artists expression, I argue that it is far more powerful to create art from personal experience. By continuing to make work about a “vicarious past” the connection to the Holocaust lives and continues to affect modern people.

Maya Lin: Making the Memorial

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)