WAR IN IRAQ The Coordinates of Conflict, Photographs by VII, Center of Photography, New York

Gary Knight, U.S. MARINES OF THE 3RD BATTALION, 4TH MARINES TKAE DIYALA BRIDGE (DEAD REPUBLICAN GUARD IN HTE FOREGROUND), SUBURBS OF BAGHDAD, IRAQ, APRIL 2003, 2003

 

John Stanmeyer, HEAD OF THE OFFICE OF THE TALIBAN (CENTER) AND OTHER TALILBAN OFFICIALS AT THE AFGHAN EMBASSY, ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN, SEPTEMBER 2001, 2001


Four days before 9/11, seven independent photojournalists came together and formed VII. Now numbering 10, VII merges the talents of some of the world's most influential photojournalists. Included in ICP's War in Iraq are the works ofChristopher Anderson, Alexandra Boulet, Lauren Greenfield, Ron Haviv, Gary Knight, Antonin Kratochvil, Christopher Morris, James Nachtwey and John Stanmeyer.


War in Iraq exposes the immediacy of the war on the ground, and its affects on on the thousands of soldiers and civilians involved. The exhibition begins with images of pre-war US and Afghanistan, and continues on to end with post-war Iraq as of July, 2003. Some of the photographers traveled with and under the protection of US troups, while others traveled alone from city to city, unprotected and in the heart of the violence. Accompanied by first hand accounts by the photographers themselves, the images are gritty, poignant, sad, and disturbing. We are taken from the battleground to the prisons, through the aftermath of the destruction, and into the everyday lives of the US troops, Iraqis, and Afghan people.


Still fresh in my mind are Christopher Morris's comments about how after 20 years of photographing wars, this was the first time that all that he could feel was the conquerer, and not the liberation of the people. There are also observations of young and sheltered boys trained to fight, but not to understand; boys from the midwest thrown into Iraq as if it were another planet, and who sincerely believed that they were defending freedom because that is why the “bad guys” hate us. It cannot be ignored how little planning and foresight went into the US-led war in Iraq. How did policy become so jaded that something of this magnitude could become so trivialized by political agendas and ideologies?


Not to say that War in Iraq takes an overtly anti-war or anti-US stance. It is a reflection on the war, and although points of view are never hidden, the work is allowed to speak for itself. But in light of the upcoming US presidential elections and recent criticism of the Bush administration, it seems to challenge us to think critically in understanding the war as a human issue, and not the usual propoganda chess game between good and the evil. It is a reminder that war does not just affect nations, it affects individuals. What this war was really about is up to each of us to decide, but we must consider which questions to ask and where those answers are to be found.

Grace Kim, New York 2004