Art Gallery: Reflections

I left Corcoran Gallery of Art on Friday with mixed feelings.  We had just spent 45 minutes looking at images.  Many of these images depicted human suffering.  Was it appropriate of the photographer to take these images?  Moreover, was it appropriate that these images were displayed at an art gallery for all to see?  While these are complicated questions, I feel the answers are simple: yes.  Unlike the artist who took photos of toy soldiers, the photographers who took pictures of human suffering were not doing so for artistic value.  They took these photos to tell a story, to send a message; war is real, and its effects are horrendous. 

 

Recall the images of war we saw on Friday.  What did they all have in common?  They all showed people suffering.  Consider the subject of those images; they were people of all ages, of all races and of all races.  War knows no limits.  We saw images of children in Vietnam running for their lives.  We saw an old woman who had been killed.  We saw the mangled bodies of civilians who had been killed after a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv.  And of course, we saw soldiers who had been killed.  These images showed the reality of war.  They humanized it.  They made it real. 

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3 thoughts on “Art Gallery: Reflections”

  1. I’m curious to know what your feelings were exactly. I saw viewing the exhibit as more of a sobering experience that really opened my eyes further to the brutality of war. I would not only agree with you in saying that it was not only appropriate for these pictures to be taken, but I would extend it to say they are necessary. Without these images, the general public would have no idea as to the destructive nature of war, thus dooming them to be cowards. At least with these pictures, we can be spectators and get a small taste of what goes on in conflict. Even with these images, however, I don’t think it’s possible to grasp all of the emotions and feelings of war unless you encounter it first hand.

  2. I agree with the fact that one cannot truly understand the emotions and trauma of war without first hand experience. However, I feel as if photographs from war do a powerful job at portraying the realities of war. The photographs may not necessarily portray empathetic emotions, unless the viewer is a veteran or has had a similar experience, however, the photographs cause us to feel sympathy for the individuals in the photographs. The photographs only allow us to think about the wide range of emotions individual or individuals captured in the photograph must be feeling. Although for some these images may be seen as inappropriate, they may emotionally sting and cause many to feel a sense of discomfort, however, I believe as well that they are necessary. Although we may not be able to feel the true emotions caused by war, these photographs are important to be displayed in order to educate the general public about the tragedies of war.

  3. My feelings were similar to yours. At first glance I felt many of the photos — especially those that included children — were not appropiate. Then I recalled Sontag’s essay and realized that if the photos were not taken, we would be cowards.

    In today’s global environment, I think it is key we understand the realities of war and the suffering it brings. The globe is on the verge of another world war, and I think these images should give world leaders (at least those that seek peace) more motivation to avoid war.

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