From the Fringes to the Frontline- Reading Response

The Guardian article by Melanie Abrams deals with the patriarchal views of war photography and profiles some female war photographers in order to challenge the usual view of war photography as a male only. Even though more and more female war photographers are appearing more and more, the field is still largely male dominated with only seven of 79 working at the Magnum photo agency being female.

Women photographers such as Jenny Matthews discuss not being taken as seriously as men but that having some advantage. Matthews said that while she was in Afghanistan in 1988 that “Even though the secret service was on our case, we were not taken seriously because we were women. It helped us get around and get our story.” The women in the article cite the experience of being a woman as sometimes being an obstacle but also that they were perceived as less threatening and used this to their advantage to capture inside shots. Photographer Susan Meiselas who covered the Nicaraguan civil war says that often people criticize female photographers for bringing in emotion into the work but that this is not necessarily a bad thing. “it was important to balance and feel the emotion. I was interested in multiple perspectives. The ethos of objectivity is an illusion.”


“From the fringes to the frontline” How women are changing the nature of war photography By Melanie Abrams

I found this article both inspiring and also hard to read, as we see how strong sexism is and how it plays a role in the way stories are told. This is a general statement, and when pulled back, it is even more interesting when applying it to high-conflict and humanitarian interests like war photography and journalism.

I found the article to be thought provoking, as Abrams explored the reality of what being women is like, owning and using stereotypical labels to tell a story in a way they though to be important and powerful. She discussed attributes about how generally speaking, women are less threatening, which lead them to get permission to enter houses and areas that men could not, which often included spaces where people were getting medical treatment and care, and getting more intimate stories because of this.

“Matthews points out other differences: “Women sometimes think of better ways to capture a story. We look behind the action and have different priorities, such as the human interest. Twenty years ago, there were rarely any images of the women who were left behind in conflict zones. Now, because of women photographers, you see images of refugee camps all the time – taken by men as well as women.” Edelstein adds that “women are prepared to look at the emotional undergrowth of the situations we’re in.”” (The Guardian)

Jenny Hontz-Exhibit: War Photos of Iraq and Afghanistan-Schuyler DeMarinis-Reading #9

I feel as if we look down upon some of the embedded military photography because we think that these images are censored and chosen specifically by the U.S. to represent the war in the way they want Americans to see it. Dane Jensen curates an exhibit to represent the war through the lenses of these embedded military photographers. His vision is to create a dialog and awareness of what is going on in Iraq and Afghanistan to raise money for the soldiers who are injured coming home. What he discovered was that many of these photographers were incredibly talented and had much to offer for his fine arts show.


Sgt. Jacob N Bailey, Sleeping Child, Tal Afar Iraq, 2007

   In the article for Newsweek, Exhibit: War Photos of Iraq and Afghanistan, Jenny Hontz interviews Dane Jensen about his show at The Reform Gallery in Los Angeles. Jensen spoke about how he chose much of the images that he presented. He said that he wanted to look at the backstory that was going on in light of the war such as, pollution and child labor. When we think of war, we think of combat, and that is what we want to see. The truth is there are many other issues at hand due to the effects of war. This is what the exhibit Bringing the War Home was designed to do as well. Since we look for gore and explosions, we are also left feeling as if we are robbed from the truth and that the U.S. Military is hiding something from us by embedding their photographers.


Staff Sgt. Russell Klika, Cemetary, Kirkuk Iraq, 2006

   The fact is that they are not going to show dead American soldiers. This is for us to consider on our own. We are shown glimpses of the war, and we have to expect that there is also bloodshed taking place behind the scenes. They are not going to make this public because they have no reason to. Dane Jensen did a good job of expressing to us the level of professionalism that goes into the work of these embedded photographers. They are there to capture the moments that they feel best to represent the war.


Staff Sgt. Russell Klika, Brick Factory, Baladruiz Iraq, 2005

   Jensen talks briefly about the first all-female combat photography team. One of these women, Cherie Thurlby, is quite accomplished and has taken photos that many of us would recognize. She took a picture of Saddam’s palace after the Americans had bombed it. It was also her persistence that got the soldiers to allow her to enter the building just to take the photo. Other women have also been injured and could have easily died on site. Stacy Pearsall has been hit in the neck two separate occasions by an IED, luckily surviving both. There is a lot to war photography then is laid out to us through mass media. There is also a lot of stories to be told, so the exhibit by Dan Jensen says a lot for the field.


Cherie Thurlby, Presidential Palace, Saddam Hussein, Iraq

Young: The Holocaust as Vicarious Past

A problem that many artists who dedicate their work to historical events find is that they cannot create their work directly as it affected them, because they were not alive or of the generation that lived through it. New media artists rarely try to represent events such as the Holocaust in different ways that have already been used, since they are of a post war generation and can’t remember the Holocaust as it happened, all they have is what has been passed down to them. “They remember not actual events but the countless histories, novel and poems of the Holocaust they have read, the photos, movies and video testimonies they have seen over the years.”

Young explains how instead artists try and portray their own “necessary hyper mediated experiences of memory.” When the memory of history no longer has a living testimony, it becomes the memory of the witnesses memory. By portraying the Holocaust as a ‘vicarious past’, these artists insist on maintaining a distinct boundary between their work and the separate testimonies of their parents or grandparents generation. “Not only does this generation of artists inattentively grasp its inability to know the history of the Holocaust outside the ways its has been passed down, but it sees history itself as a composite record f both events and these events transmission to the next generation.” Current and well know Holocaust artist tend to make there art represent the Holocaust as it is remembered to them, or what the memory of it means to them now. This still however creates opportunities for criticism  as Young explains, as some critics will argue that the representations are more “self indulgent and focus little on the survivors real memory and experiences.”


James E. Young: Memory, Countermemory

In James E. Young’s Memory, Countermemory, and the End of the Monument he looks the monument problem that Germany faced after WWII, and addresses the way that classical monuments can only aid in forgetting. The first example that Young uses is the artist Horst Hoheisel’s “memorial to the murdered jews of Europe” proposal. The artist proposed that instead of building some new edifice to add to the landscape of Germany, that instead they should destroy it. Hoheisel proposed to demolish the Brandenburg Gate and allow the empty space to serve as a permanent reminder of the missing Jews. Hoheisel argued that creating a place for memory only served as a way for Germany to permanently end this chapter of their history. Thus encouraging people to forget.

From this radical proposal has come a rethinking of the purpose of monuments and their role. While many monuments are meant to serve as place for remembrance, they instead become “figurative icons of the late nineteenth century celebrating national ideals and triumphs to the anti-heroic”. While a monument to celebrate the victory of a war in one country rises triumphantly, it ignores the destruction of the other country.

While this idea of a different style of monument feels new, Lewis Mumford argued for this idea in the 1930’s. Mumford argued that the style of all monuments needed to be that of modernism architecture. “Believing that modern architecture invited the perpetuation of life itself, encourages renewal and change, and scorns the illusion of permanence.” While this idea is starkly planted in the modernist ideology, it is becoming clear that monuments nor their meaning is everlasting. Further using the same methods of creating a monument was counter to the new ideals and meanings of art after the Great War.

While all monuments are created to preserve memory and offer consolation, by creating large classical monuments they allow people to move on. While this can be important for the healing process, in many cases it allows for people to move forward without allowing the mourning process to be completed.

NPR Review of Tucker war photography

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. (Accessed April 29th, 2017)