December 10, 2012
David Turnley’s photograph of a soldier grieving the loss of his best friend, made during the Persian Gulf War, is currently on exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in an unprecedented exhibition exploring the experience of war through the eyes of photographers.
WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath features nearly 500 objects, including photographs, books, magazines, albums and photographic equipment. The photographs were made by more than 280 photographers, from 28 nations, who have covered conflict on six continents over 165 years, from the Mexican-American War of 1846 through present-day conflicts. Accompanying the exhibition is a 600-page catalogue of the same title, with interviews and essays by the curators, contributing scholars and military historians. WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY will travel nationally, with the following schedule:
- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston | November 11, 2012–February 3, 2013
- The Annenberg Space for Photography | March 23–June 2, 2013
- The Corcoran Gallery of Art | June 29–September 29, 2013
- The Brooklyn Museum | November 8, 2013–February 2, 2014
WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath has been organized by the MFAH curatorial team of Anne Wilkes Tucker, the Gus and Lyndall Wortham Curator of Photography; Will Michels, photographer and Glassell School of Art instructor; and Natalie Zelt, curatorial assistant for photography. The exhibition takes a critical look at the relationship between war and photography, exploring what types of photographs are, and are not, made, and by whom and for whom. Rather than a chronological survey of wartime photographs or a survey of “greatest hits,” the exhibition presents types of photographs repeatedly made during the many phases of war—regardless of the size or cause of the conflict, the photographers’ or subjects’ culture or the era in which the pictures were recorded. The images in the exhibition are organized according to the progression of war: from the acts that instigate armed conflict, to “the fight,” to victory and defeat, and images that memorialize a war, its combatants and its victims. The exhibition was initiated in 2002, when the MFAH acquired what is purported to be the first print made from Joe Rosenthal’s negative of Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima (1945). From this initial acquisition, the curators decided to organize an exhibition that would focus on war photography as a genre. During the evolution of the project, the museum acquired more than a third of the prints in the exhibition. The curators reviewed more than one million photographs in 17 countries, locating pictures in archives, military libraries, museums, private collections, historical societies and news agencies; in the personal files of photographers and service personnel; and at two annual photojournalism festivals: World Press Photo (Amsterdam) and Visa pour l’Image (Perpignan, France). The curators based their appraisals on the clarity of the photographers’ observation and capacity to make memorable and striking pictures that have lasting relevance. The pictures were recorded by some of the most celebrated conflict photographers, as well as by many who remain anonymous. Almost every photographic process is included, ranging from daguerreotypes to inkjet prints, digital captures and cell-phone shots.