I recently wrote a comment on the Bluedog Photography Facebook Group about the exhibition opening I attended of Degree South: War
Discussion on the topic has been healthy both on and off the site. Even here in the kennel there are some that don’t want to see it for differing reasons such as ‘it’s not my type of photography.’
Thanks to my great friend and work colleague Anita and the wonderful Rachel at the Powerhouse in Brisbane I’ve been looking further into the reason this collaboration of images was put together for a touring exhibition, the photographers, their lives, the conflicts and what others have had to say.
Below are the Room Notes written by Shaune Lakin which some may find of interest. I did, and over time I’ll write more on this topic – I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
The aim of the exhibition is to attempt ‘to reveal the impact that war has on its victims, both civilians and military, whose lives are shattered by the conflicts they did not start and over which they have little control.’ And I think it has done exactly that as shown in our Facebook discussions.
Travelling to these areas with photojournalist listed as your occupation can be tricky. Would I do it again? I will never say never, but at this time in my life it’s a no and I can’t afford a kidnappers insurance policy (yes there are such things).
What the exhibition does not portray enough I feel is the role the photographers have actually played in highlighting these events for the civilians involved and how they place themselves in enormous risk to save people. That’s a hard image to capture.
Australian Centre for Photography and Fuji Professional Presents
Degree South: War is currently showing at the Brisbane Powerhouse till the 30th MayFEATURING WORKS BY SEAN FLYNN, TIM PAGE, STEPHEN DUPONT, DAVID DARE PARKER, JACK PICONE, BEN BOHANE, MICHAEL COYNE AND ASHLEY GILBERTSON
°South is a collective of dedicated and award-winning Australian documentary photographers who have covered conflicts from Vietnam in ’65 to present day Afghanistan. Often working at great risk to themselves, they have created images that have gone on to influence public opinion, make history and inspire us to find other ways to solve our differences.
War is a haunting journey through the scars inflicted by battle, where the only hope often rests in the power of a photograph to deliver a critical humanistic message.
At present there are 43 conflicts taking place on our planet. Once, the battlefield was the place of devastation, now it is streets, alleyways, schools and places of worship. People and places are no longer protected or sacred and in much of the world it is now safer to be a soldier than an unarmed civilian.
Warning: This exhibition contains images that may offend. Recommended for people aged 15 years and older.Mon-Fr 9am-5pm; Entry freehttp://www.brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/view/war-degree-south
War is the defining constituent of our age. But there is a dominant discourse of war that reads Coalition–Afghanistan–Iraq, with respectful attention paid to Israel–Palestine. The mass media present these wars as a heady mix of “clash of civilisations” and “grand historical event”, in images sourced through a supply chain that includes military public relations, the military-industrial complex and, occasionally, civilian or soldier journalism.
There is no denying the historical importance of these conflicts. All the same, there are now over 40 conflicts taking place across the globe and some are barely known at all. They’re either not sexy enough, too far removed from the concerns of Western democracies, too complicated for the media to make sense of in a grab, or politically just too difficult for anyone (media or government) to go near. Without witness, these events could, like so many other conflicts of the past, become forgotten.
This complex and untidy context has been the ground over which °SOUTH photographers have trod for decades now, with a firm belief in the witnessing authority of the photojournalist and the affective possibilities of the photograph. These ends are secured through a commitment to the codes of photojournalism and a belief that, in the face of the military’s preferred images and the barrage of undifferentiated cell-phone pictures of conflict and horror, the photojournalist still has a vital role to play in enabling public knowledge and memory.
text: Shaune Lakin