Published by Safe-T-Gallery Inc.
Don Burmeister: Owner/Editor
Barbara Confino: Associate Editor
Although his recent portfolio is diverse, Jonathan Alpeyrie is a fundamentally conflict photographer. At 33 he has already travelled to over two dozen countries and covered eleven conflict zones in Asia, Africa, and the Caucasus – often documenting the insurgents (most recently in Syria this past March).
However, the current exhibition at Anastasia Photo deals with a much older conflict –the Second World War, a conflagration that involved over sixty nations and saw the deaths of over fifty million. Alpeyrie has managed to interview and photograph over two hundred veterans from both sides of the war.
Fifteen of these portraits are on display in the gallery. Each veteran is shown seated, three-quarter or full length, in a neutral square format. Some are dressed in full uniform with chests full of medals while others sit in normal attire with just a fatigue cap or a single medal to recall their years of service. They look out at the viewer, some with pride, some with determination, others with weariness and resignation. The backgrounds vary from homey interiors (note the Smurfs behind Suren Sarkisen) to gardens and veterans’ gathering places, along with the odd juxtaposition of a Danish SS veteran in front of an armored car used by the resistance.
Unique to these photos is their presentation mostly as diptychs. Alpeyrie has paired portraits of men on opposite sides of the war in a single frame, captioned with name, nationality and the battle in which both participated. In some of these pairings the postures of the men appear to look at each other and one wonders how the men in these images would react if they actually met. Would the old animosities resurface, or would they “treat [to a drink], if met where any bar is” as in Thomas Hardy’s poem The Man He Killed? Only the image of Thomas Gilzean, seated by a war memorial, appeared alone at the back of the gallery.
A book of these photographs is “in the works” with Verve Editions and I would hope that the pairings seen on the gallery walls would be a part of the design of the publication. Veterans of World War II have become the subject for several photographic series. Martin Roemers’ series “The Never-Ending War” - stark, closely cropped, black & white portraits of veterans staring intently at the camera - makes an interesting comparison to Alpeyrie’s more sedate images of these surviving warriors of the last “good” war.