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Peace Matters Index
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- War withouth end
- Conflict and photography
- Soldiers on the batlefield
- What an I doing to stop the war?
- Question time?

Peace Matters




Tate exhibition

Image of WW2 bunker. Tate Modern2015

There are always questions about representation of the world around us. Questions which we the viewer probably do not ask ourselves often enough while viewing a photograph even in a gallery. The photographer may have one thing in mind but what the viewer may be 'seeing' is something altogether different.

Conflict, Time, Photography at Tate Modern should be of interest to those of us concerned about war and its representation especially in the WW1 centenary years. The photographs in this exhibition are grouped according to how long after a conflict or event they were taken. War has passed on, we look at some of its traces on the landscape. In one room are photographs of destroyed cities taken shortly after the end of WW1, many printed at the time in what became popular tourist guides - an early example of today's Dark Tourism or Thanatourism for the academically minded. When they were published they were regarded as an example of German barbarism. On the opposite wall was is a series of (it's hard not to say 'beautiful' photographs) destroyed building in Afghanistan by Simon Norfolk. The sharpness and clarity of the images, the lighting, the framing speak of high art. Were it not for the subject I would be pleased to have any of those pictures on my wall. Through the gloss it is not easy to reach what the century of war in that country has meant as the ruined buildings turn to 'romantic' ruins. The barbarians are not easy to spot here; perhaps they are too many and various.
Norfolk has been recording post war scenes for many years, scenes incomprehensible to most without a caption but haunting once located in space and time. A black and white photograph of a telegraph pole in an empty landscape signifying the cutting edge technology of its day that helped to mastermind the Armenien genocide can easily take one on an imaginative journey in a way that high gloss colour images seem to interdict. Perhaps its a problem for those coming from a black and white age.

Amid today's WW1 razzmatazz the exhibition is mercifully free from celebrating the empire and military comments are absent. On the contrary quotations from Vonnegut on the wall outside the show’s entrance and a copy of Slaughterhouse 5 displayed in the first room while almost at the end a large photograph of conscientious objectors in Dyce Quarry 1916 objecting to military service perhaps indicate the moving spirit here.
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