‘Conflict Zone’ photo exhibit shows war through the lenses of conflict photographers
The deaths of Chris Hondros and Tim Hetherington in Libya and the maiming of Joao Silva in Afghanistan have cast a light on the dangerous work of conflict photographers.
That attention continues with a photo exhibit that opened over the weekend in Chicago. "Conflict Zone" features the work of Hondros, Silva, Andrea Bruce, Jason Howe, Greg Marinovich and other conflict photographers.
By looking at war through their lenses, the exhibit illustrates how the battlefield affects soldiers and civilians. And it shows how these photojournalists expose themselves to capture these images, as New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller described in a column published Sunday:
"They need a sustained line of sight to frame their photographs; a reliable source is never enough. And they cannot avert their eyes; they have to let the images in, no matter how searing or disturbing. Robert Capa’s famous advice to younger photographers — 'Get closer' — translates in combat to 'get more vulnerable,' both literally and emotionally."
Here is a selection of photographs submitted for the Conflict Zone exhibit, along with reactions from some of the people who attended the opening on Saturday. (We are publishing these photos with the permission of the exhibit organizers; people shared their reactions via our Tumblr.)
"Conflict Zone" is on display in downtown Chicago through June 18. A nonprofit group called the Independence Fund organized the exhibit and is seeking donations to show it around the country. A portion of the donations will go to a fund for Silva.
"Having seen various collections of combat photography, I thought I knew what to expect with Conflict Zone. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a diverse selection of photography and art that does what any successful exhibit strives to do: appeal to the human experience. Conflict Zone portrays a wide range of the social and psychological conditions that are inherent in war, and will leave the viewer with a greater understanding of what it’s like to be 'in the shit.'"
"I feel this gallery is needed now more than ever. It shows the faces of the photographers who put their lives in danger as well as the images each photographer sees. People need to know what war photographers are risking their life for since so many images go unseen. The gallery honors both the photographers and the soldiers who fight."
"I was particularly struck by the scenes captured by photographer Holly Pickett: women, properly covered, gathered to learn, something, anything; local Arab men gathered to dance to a drum, in spite of the war around them; and the power of the ball to provide boys with diversion, in front of a huge bombed-out building. The photographer managed to show the human spirit, peeking through, humanity visible."
"Very impressive. My son served two tours in Iraq and came home safely. I am so thankful. My prayers and thoughts are with the young men and women who have given of their body and soul for the safety of United States. Since he never talked about what he saw, these photographs help me to see some of pain that went on there."
-Bettye Jo Hansbarger
"Considering the timing of where we are at in terms of celebrating the valor of our military veterans and lauding the recent accomplishments of our active military in Afghanistan, this exhibit was timely and poignant."
"As a member of the Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home 2011 committee, I am thrilled to see these powerful photographs of our current fighting forces. One goal of the Welcome Home 2011 folks is to 'pass the baton' to their younger veteran counterparts. This exhibit is a great bridge between generations. I appreciate the generosity of these brave and skilled photographers in sharing their work."
"This has been a powerful and important exhibit that needs to be shown all over the country. The costs of war are more than in the battlefield, but for those who have returned home as well."
"Powerful opportunity to begin or continue the dialogue on the timeless condition of the veteran. One cannot escape the war zone unscathed or wounded in some manner or form. This exhibit attempts to communicate that to the person who has not been there, done that."
"Without exception the exhibit captures the effect of emotional and physical trauma. I thank everyone who contributed to the exhibit and being brave enough to share their personal experiences."
"Getting images from this many journalists located in so many places in the world presented a daunting challenge in the least. Yet, in three short months from conception, Conflict Zone was implemented. None of this would have been possible without the tools of modern technology, and this, more than anything in the show presents the rapidly changing face of coverage in the Conflict Zone. My heart pangs that Chris Hondros was perhaps the Conflict Zone contributor most keenly aware of this, and the one whose guidance and input will be most sorely missed. I hope the exhibit goes on to honor his intellect in a suitable manner."
-Steve Danyluk, one of the organizers of the exhibit
Kenny Irby, Poynter's senior faculty for visual Journalism and diversity, selected the photos shown here.
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Correction: The photo taken by Joao Silva was misattributed and had an incorrect caption. Both errors have been corrected.