Photography/Exhibition: Tim Hetherington Retrospective

I am SO happy I was able to catch this Tim Hetherington retrospective/exhibition before it closes this Saturday - and if you haven't seen it yet you must go to the Yossi Milo Gallery to see it, especially seeing that it is the first major exhibition of his work in the US (which really surprises me).














The front room is devoted to a collection of Tim's photos taken in Liberia while he was covering the civil war there. The second room contains a set of photos taken of US soldiers based in Afghanistan (taken from the series named Infidel) . The gallery is also running two short films made by Tim himself, Diary and Sleeping Soldiers. Diary is composed of a collage of footage taken by Tim over his 10 years of reporting, and, in his own words is "a highly personal and experimental film that expresses the subjective experience of my work, and was made as an attempt to locate myself after ten years of reporting. It's a kaleidoscope of images that link our western reality to the seemingly distant worlds we see in the media". You can watch it online HERE - such haunting film. The juxtaposition of driving down a road in Africa and driving down a road in England is really well done - same type of journey, completely different perspective and views. In one, people walk down the street, lost in their own thoughts, moving along to their next destination. In the other people are walking to survive.


Tim died in Libya last year while covering the civil war there. He was located in Misrata with a group of rebel soldiers, as well as a few other foreign journalists and photographers. Fellow photographer Chris Hondros also died in the Gaddafi-supporter mortar attack on the group. Tim's work has always provoked many emotions and thoughts in me, I think mainly because he really focused on the individual amidst a world in conflict and war. His images provide an insight into how life goes on when the world is literally falling apart around you, for example, the fisherman rowing past the half-sunken warship, or the women carrying their babies in one arm and ammunition in the other.

His Infidel series is based on time Tim spent with a group of American troops stationed in the very dangerous eastern Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. The series portrays the men on a day-to-day basis, and shows an intimate view of life between the wait and the battle: soldiers sleeping, playing, waiting, on patrol and joking. The one that haunts me the most is the one taken of a soldier standing against a wall, the background a little blurry, with a look of complete horror and exhaustion on his face. If I'm, not mistaken Tim won the World Press Photo of the Year award for this one.
Also, if you haven't seen Restrepo, the documentary on American soldiers posted in Afghanistan that Tim made with Sebastian Junger (nominated for an Oscar in 2011), then you must watch it.



I have so much admiration for people who willingly place themselves at the front line of danger in order to report it back to the rest of the world in the form of images and words. Without these people we would never get to see both the beauty and the atrocities that man can commit. In my opinion there is photography and then there is amazing photography - Tim was definitely one of those amazing photographers, every image telling a story or three. I wish he were still around to provide us with more amazing images.





Additional information:
TimHetherington.com
Yossi Milo Gallery (245 Tenth Ave, NYC - between 24th & 25th streets)
Diary
Chris Hondros
NYT Parting Glance coverage


All images: Tim Hetherington/Panos Pictures

Richard Mosse - The Congo in infra-red film


Whenever I read a press release my usual first thought is "I wish I had written that!" immediately followed by "but why are they trying to sell me something I already own/know?". You can read the exhibition press release from the Jack Shainman Gallery HERE, it's well written and explains what Richard Mosse does to obtain all of the purple and pink hues. I will just talk about what I thought of the exhibition.

I had already seen a couple of Richard Mosse's prints and was intrigued to see more. They are nothing less than striking with the juxtaposition of violence (militia, guns and army) on top of a landscape that is coloured in warm pink, purple and red. Knowing what I know about the Congo, meaning the years and years of civil war, unrest, millions of deaths, poverty, systematic sexual violence and the guerrilla warfare tactics performed on civilians by multiple militias, makes these photos even more powerful. The Congo is DANGEROUS. For everyone. It's no wonder people don't care to talk about it, let alone go there on vacation. You only really venture into the Congo if you are a journalist intent on telling the truth about what happens inside the country, you work for a non-profit, or you have a sense of adventure which borders on the edge of self-destruction (see Joseph Conrad or, more recently, Tim Butcher). But without people like Richard Mosse, who actually go to this country and document what they see, no one would really see what the country actually looks like.


Tell me... How many of you reading this know that during this last week general elections were held in the Congo? That the Congo is the world's largest producer of cobalt ore, and a large producer of copper and diamonds? That with a strategic set up of public transportation and hydro-electric power the Congo could become a wealthy and powerful nation in Africa? But that since the late 80's, war and violence have created one of the poorest and most dangerous nations in the world (the numbers of deaths associated with these wars are around the 5 million mark).

The Congo is beautiful, extreme, huge and very daunting. More than luscious rain forests, waterways, mountains, always hot and humid, and raw. There are places where nobody lives, and places where you wouldn't think anybody could survive, but they do. You just have to look at Richard Mosse's landscape photos of the mountains that go on forever, with the grazing cows - seemingly peaceful images in a land of never-ending conflict.


I think my main question revolves around whether this is art or photo-journalism? In a sense isn't photo-journalism art too? Mosse uses a specific type of infrared-sensitive, false color reversal film called Kodak Aerochrome, that used to be used by the military to detect camouflage in green landscape (hence the fact that it turns the landscape into all these different hues). I don't know if he does any further editing on the photos once they are developed (I would like to know more about that part), but the end result is deeply striking. I just hope that these photographs can be considered as both art and photo-journalism, the former because they are so GOOD, and the latter because they depict a country where violence is the main form of communication and that the rest of the world doesn't really care about. Just look at his photo of the bombed out and abandoned UN building and think about it.


Richard Mosse's exhibition, Infra, is being displayed at the Jack Shainman Gallery until December 22nd. More information here: Jack Shainman Gallery

Richard Mosse Official Website

Kodak Aerochrome (discontinued)