Within the confines of the Gund Gallery, an assembly of photographs from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Israel, Palestine and the United States hang on the walls. Each photo gives insight into the harsh reality of life in the aftermath of war.
Photographs from 12 international photographers are on display in the exhibition Aftermath: The Fallout of War — America and the Middle East, curated by Carol McCusker, curator of photography at the University of Florida’s Harn Museum of Art.
This is not an exhibition just about war, but a beautiful and gripping humanitarian look at its inescapable effects as well.
Some photos are journalistic in nature, recording the fallout of dropped bombs and foreign invasions. Others are more conceptual and focus on finding a way to express the trauma that lingers far after a war has come and gone.
Images by Palestinian photographer Eman Mohammed depict the immediate bloody aftermath of an Israeli airstrike. In a black-and-white photo, nothing but a shoe and the drips of blood remain where a man had stood not long before. The dark contrast of the black blood and the white wall is haunting, and the image about of all those lost in the instant of a bombing.
In the midst of the tragedy, the exhibit also displays a sense of hope. The work of Australian photographer Stephen Dupont stands as proof of that. In his photo series, “Axe me, Biggie,” Dupont took to the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan with a Polaroid camera and asked if anyone wanted their picture taken.
What resulted is a series of portraits against a blank background. In some of the photos, the background is just a blanket held up by others waiting to have their picture taken. This blanket blocks out the chaos and grime of the streets so that the subject of the image is the main focal point. The series then becomes not so much about the actual photos taken, but about the break from reality that the photoshoot provided for the people of Kabul.
At the center of the exhibit is a chalkboard framed with the question, “If you had to leave your home, what would you take with you?” A box of chalk waits for visitors to write their answers on the board. Answers range from “my bed” and “peanut butter” to “hope” and “my family.”
While most of the exhibit centers on countries in the Middle East that are directly impacted by violence, the last room in the gallery turns the viewer’s gaze to soldiers returning home.
In a somewhat surreal series by American photographer Jennifer Karady, military veterans pose in staged situations that depict the impact of post-traumatic stress on the everyday lives of veterans. One photo shows a uniformed veteran crouched in a protective position, recoiling as a garbage truck passes by and hits a pothole, making a loud echoing sound.
On a plaque next to the photo, the man depicted, former Sergeant Jose Adames of the U.S. Marine Corps, talks about his return from Iraq, and explains that he now finds himself terrified of trucks. The photo brings his subconscious reality into visual terms, allowing others a chance to understand his experience.
While there is a wide variety of subjects photographed, they all trace back to the common theme of humanity in turmoil. The images are beautiful and they are equally as haunting.
Aftermath: The Fallout of War — America and the Middle East will be on display in the Buchwald-Wright Gallery of Gund Gallery until April 20.