New York Photo Review
Volume 3 Issue 16 May 2 to 8, 2012

War Photography Now

Questions without Answers
Mohammad Chowdhury
 by Marcus Bleasdale. Source: viiphoto.com/news/vii-gallery/
Marcus Bleasdale

At their spacious Dumbo Gallery, VII, the photo-journalistic collective begun in 2001, is showing Questions Without Answers: A Photographic Prism of World Events 1985-2010. Focussing on moments in human history we would prefer to ignore, these images take us beyond our borders to present struggles faced by citizens around the world.

One of the first photographs, a piece by Marcus Bleasdale, helps set the tone. Taken in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the number of child soldiers is among the highest in the world, the subject is a young boy pointing a rifle straight at the viewer. Most of these children are forcefully recruited and made to follow orders under death threat. The boy’s smile as he holds his rifle suggests the loss of childhood innocence in a world where violence is an accepted fact of life. By putting his subject at the forefront and using shallow depth of field, Bleasdale detaches him from his surroundings––all we see is a boy who has become desensitized to the horror and consequence of taking a life. Another black and white Bleasdale photograph from the Ituri Province in Democratic Republic of Congo show us a man sitting on a hospital bed in a dark room. Badly beaten, his bare chest exposed, the man stares off to the distance, vulnerable, his tired eyes betraying fear and sorrow. The caption reveals that this man was a soldier beaten after being accused of cannibalism and now awaiting his fate. By placing the soldier in the center and putting a spotlight on him, Bleasdale heightens his loneliness. The darkness of the room and its stark shadows foreshadow his bleak future. Despite knowing the crime this man possibly committed, there is still sympathy for his plight, making me question my own understanding of right and wrong. Is life really that black and white, or is it our interpretation and reaction to the gray areas that truly define who we are?

Loneliness is a common theme in many of the photographs. Antonin Kratochvil’s photograph Romania, shot in 1990, is from the series Broken Dream: Twenty Years of War in Eastern Europe. It depicts a young boy on an empty street, holding up a ball in his right hand, his left hand raised as if surrendering to his oppressors. Another example of a lost childhood, Kratochvil’s black and white close-up captures the resignation in the boy’s eyes as the overcast light flattens the image and suggests he is trapped in his loneliness. Then there is House of Mullah Omar by Alexandra Boulat shot in Afghanistan after the 2001 campaign. Caught in one the many US bombardments, Mullah Omar stands in the rubbles of his home. The wide angle allows the viewer to take in the destruction: Omar’s loss is mere collateral damage. Also by Boulat is Iraqi Girl, showing a young girl wrapped in white sheet, killed during the US led coalition bombings of Baghdad in 2003. She lies on a marble table like a specter, the low light and the cool colors making the white sheet stand out against the simple background. And making her death even more chilling.

These are only a few amongst the show’s many great pieces. As its name suggests, your mind will be filled with questions without clear answers. Therein lays the strength of this exhibition: it provokes questions and the need to reflect on the answers. The exhibition will go on until May 4th –– plenty of time to make a stop with friends.


Questions without Answers
Curator: Denise Wolff

VII Photo
28 Jay St.
Dumbo Brooklyn         Map

212 337 3130
viiphoto.com/news/vii-gallery/

Thursday, March 15 to
Friday, May 4, 2012
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 to 6
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