‘Bringing the War Home’ is an ‘Impressions Gallery’ touring exhibition of challenging unconventional war photography, based on the devastations of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Currently exhibiting in The Winchester Gallery at the Winchester School of Art, ‘Bringing the War Home’ is a collection of artistic photography from a variety of artists, including Farhad Ahrarnia, Kay May, Lisa Barnard, Asef Ali Mohammad and Peter van Agtmael, whose work is there to depict and represent the confrontations of war conflict that many civilians globally have suffered, as well as put across the sentiments and attitudes of women, Afghans and Iraqis.
The photography exhibited is particularly moving and unsettling, but in a way that reminds us of the constant battle our soldiers are having within Afghanistan and Iraq, and the civilians who are mourning the fallen who have grievously not returned. An exhibit that particularly stirred my emotion was the ‘US Soldiers’ series (2006-2008) by Farhad Ahrarnia. The photographer chose images of American soldiers who had been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, mainly from the internet, which he “digitally manipulated before printing onto cotton aida (needle point) fabric and hand-embroidering”. His sequence of images of young fallen men who had died in battle, felt rather interestingly surreal to me. To view photographs of these soldiers was like looking into a glimpse of the past. Here these men posed for their army photographs, unsure of what exact path was each laid out for them. Although their story is tragic, the uplifting part of this piece is that the artist brought them back to life, bringing a sense of immortality to these men. His technique, with the embroidered cotton aida fabric, reminded me of the comfort of a warm soft garment, which for me, was reminiscent of the cold brutality of war they faced, and yet the comfort it gives to see these men being forever remembered through the public eye.
Another exhibit that I found very moving was photography by Peter van Agtmael, of graffiti in Kuwait, made by and for the American soldiers, in the toilets of an army airstrip. A piece of graffiti that I found very sad to read was written by a US soldier, which read in quick tilted writing “ I miss my family. Please God, forgive the lives I took and let my family be happy if I don’t go home again”. I found it very upsetting. So upsetting in fact that I do not believe that I will ever forget it. It brought back the reality of the war and its conflict, not only the physical element, but the tragic anguish in these soldiers that it permanently produces.
Luckily, I had the pleasure to speak with the curator behind this exhibition, Pippa Oldfield, who told me this project took up to a whole year to produce. This told me of the amazing dedication that is easily reflected throughout this entire exhibit, and of its high importance and relevance to the team involved. “I wanted to show the long term effects of war” she told me, “and show the effects of what happens to those in the home nation away from the front line”. This wonderfully talented curator wanted to present “up to date, fresh and relevant” photography that reflected the current hardships that our soldiers and many civilians both outside and inside Iraq and Afghanistan, are suffering.
The exhibition overall, I must confess, is an utter masterpiece and comes highly recommended. But please, do not just take my word for it. I urge you to go and see it. Not only is it an inspiration to a Fine Art student like myself, but would most likely inspire any of you students studying Humanities subjects as it would broaden your mind, as well as perhaps help with a few dissertations on hand…
‘Bringing the War Home’ will be exhibiting at the Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, from the 23rd October to 22nd November 2013.