Wednesday, 22 October 2008
Last Sunday I went to the Barbican to have a look at the new exhibition "This Is War!", which includes some never-before-seen photographs and newly discovered documents about Robert Capa (1913-1954) and Gerda Taro (1910–1937). it was very interesting to see closely and in detail the whole process of making iconic images of the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, but I was more intrigue about the artistic responses to Iraq and Afghanistan by Omer Fast, Paul Chan, An-My Lê and specially Geert van Kesteren's Why Mister, Why?, and Baghdad Calling, (2008).
Each artist reflects on the subjects of war and their experience of conflict and at the same time each considers how some images mediates our experience and understanding of any given situation. Looking at the photographs taken by local people in everyday life Irak with their mobile phones, I thought straight away about Sco and his use of basic technologies to get close and real to the subject.
Later in the day flicking through the Sunday Times Magazine, I found an article about a new and lucrative relationship between photojournalism and art. Private collectors and galleries are willing to pay huge sums for reportage images taken in the first place to document events and provoke reaction. W Eugene Smith's photograph of a soldier holding a newborn baby during the battle of Saipan sold at Christie's for £4369, Simon Norfolk's photograph of a bullet-scarred apartament building in Kabul fetched almost £6000 and Luc Delahaye's photograph of a deserted road in the aftermath of a bomb blast went for £22100.
This year's Brighton Photo Biennial takes as its main theme the changes in both the production and consumption of war photography. Its curator Julian Stalabrass argues that, as fewer photojournalists are allowed on the front line and censorship often dictates what can and cannot be shot, photographers have to adapt to get heir message across. Today war is as much about suicide bombers and terrorism as opposing armies in the battlefield. The nature of war has changed dramatically so the way we record it it must change too. Finding new ways of communication is the key issue for most practitioners. Hung in an exhibition, these images have huge visual impact and push people to confront them and think and talk about them.