The elusive enemy: Looking back at the “war on terror’s” visual culture


 

Last week The Guardian published an extraordinary report on how Al Qaeda is using aid to win the ‘hearts and minds’ of displaced Somalis in East Africa’s zone of food insecurity. Jamal Osman’s investigation – including a compelling eleven minute video – reveals how aid workers and medical units, including American and British citizens, are … Continued

Stephen Mayes and Tim Hetherington on war and sexuality


 

Sleeping Soldiers_single screen (2009) from Tim Hetherington on Vimeo. I’m publishing here a short article written earlier this year by Stephen Mayes and Tim Hetherington that explores the themes of aggression, masculinity, sex and war, and the way they informed Tim’s work. Entitled “The Theatre of War, or ‘La Petite Mort’,” the article was a … Continued

The Back Catalogue (3): Images of atrocity, conflict and war


 

Welcome to the third in “The Back Catalogue” series of posts… I’ve been actively writing online for nearly three years now, and one of the challenges of the blog format is how to keep old posts with content that is potentially still relevant from slipping off the radar. And because this site combines my research with … Continued

Burke and Norfolk: Photographs from the War in Afghanistan


 

Simon Norfolk’s new project on Afghanistan opens at the Tate Gallery in London on 6 May, and comprises new work exhibited alongside the nineteenth century Irish photographer, John Burke. There will be a book forthcoming from Dewi Lewis and – full disclosure – I was commissioned to write a short essay for this publication. As … Continued

Thinking Images v.11: Kevin Frayer’s aerial view of Afghanistan


 

Different perspectives on the landscape of war in Afghanistan do exist. Two weeks ago The Frame (the photo blog of Californian newspaper The Sacramento Bee) published “Helmand Province from above,” nineteen black and white images from Kevin Frayer. Kevin Frayer is a Canadian photojournalist currently working as the Associated Press Chief Photographer for South Asia. … Continued

Thinking Images v.10: Jodi Bieber’s Afghan girl portrait in context


 

Jodi Bieber has won the overall 2011 World Press Photo award for her portrait of Bibi Aisha, the young Afghan women disfigured in an act of punishment (above left). Bieber outlines her thoughts on making the photograph in a brief interview here. Any image selected from over 100,000 entries produced by 5,847 photographers is going to draw … Continued

Learning from Larry, part two: what crowd funding looks like from the donor’s perspective


 

My postman brought an envelope from Larry Towell this week. Sent from Canada, it contained the 6×4 inch photograph (above) offered to those who pledged US$25 towards Larry’s “Crisis in Afghanistan” project. Personally captioned “International Committee of the Red Cross, Kabul, Afghanistan 2010” it was also personally signed. In my original post reviewing Larry’s Kickstarter-funded … Continued

Learning from Larry: what crowd funding photojournalism means and how to do it better


 

Larry Towell is one of the most accomplished contemporary photojournalists. Two weeks ago I became a backer of his “Crisis in Afghanistan” project, pledging $25 through Kickstarter. Today was the deadline for Larry to attract backers, and with 143 supporters contributing $14,007, the project exceeded its target and is up and running. I became a … Continued

The aesthetics of the war in Afghanistan


 

  The US-led war in Afghanistan is one of the longest running conflicts in America’s history. After more than nine years, the US and its allies have been fighting in Afghanistan longer than Soviet Union was by the time of its 1989 withdrawal. The war in Afghanistan has also surpassed the formal duration of the … Continued

Wikileaks: from the personal to the political


 

The global controversy surrounding Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables is a moment in which media, politics, visual culture and war intersect in complex ways. There has been no shortage of good commentary on the story, as evidenced in the range of views curated by Alex Madrigal’s post “how to think about Wikileaks”. What I … Continued

Thinking Images v.6: Gaith Abdul-Ahad’s Taliban photographs


 

Thinking Images – an occasional series on some of the week’s visuals and the thoughts they prompt… The visual landscape of the war in Afghanistan is primarily, and necessarily, a product of embedded reporting. However, because it is easier to be embedded with NATO military forces than the Taliban, we have only ever received an unavoidably partial … Continued

Embedded in Afghanistan


 

Embedding photojournalists with combat units was one of the military’s greatest victories in the Iraq war. Narrowing their focus in time and space to the unit they were with produced images putting brave soldiers front and center, with both context and victims out of range. Now, with the Obama administration’s “Af-Pak” strategy being questioned, we … Continued

War in multimedia


 

As I wrote in today’s photographic post on Afghanistan, John D. McHugh’s multimedia series Six Months in Afghanistan offers some of the best visual insights into the military realities of that conflict. McHugh, in a session chaired by Roger Tooth of The Guardian at London’s Fontline Club last week, also provides a series of good … Continued

Afghanistan: Limits of the Photographic Landscape


 

The visualization of the war against the Taliban has stuck closely to the conventional understanding of the conflict in Afghanistan. With few exceptions, photojournalism has focused on the military struggles of international forces as they combat an ‘elusive’ enemy. Starting with stories like Ron Haviv’s Road to Kabul, and evident in the contributions to the … Continued