Corcoran Gallery War Images

There were quite a few Images at the Exhibit that truly hit me as uncharacteristically real. These were the photographs that contained something that I had actually experienced in some sort of way before, such as the class picture with all the notes surrounding the students, the cat rubbing up against the dead woman’s head or even the series of images by John Sadovy depicting before and after the execution of two members of the Hungarian Secret Police. Each of these images contained a little element of normalcy that made them easier to relate to before the addition of war is introduced. I found myself, with these photographs, almost at the scene rather than in an art gallery, disconnected from the action. The class photograph never had the original intention of being used to show the effects of war but, with the addition of the man’s handwriting it becomes a visual catalog of people this man knew, of those in his class who made it and those who did not. The change in meaning also occurs in the images of the Secret Police, in the second image the looks of surprise and flinching as the sudden gunshots come out of nowhere is so genuine that the acts of the men fade away and in that moment they are not seen for their titles but as normal human beings in the face of a sudden attack.

These were the images where I truly felt like a spectator or coward. With the class portrait and the images by Sadovy I could not seem to look away from image as thoughts of what I would do in that situation raced through my head. However, with the image of the cat and the old women, along with the many images depicting child casualties, I could not stare at it for longer than a few seconds before I needed to look away to recover from the discomfort of the scene. The process of turning away lead me to the point of the images in the first place and the photographer’s intent; if the audience cannot even bare to look at photograph when the event has already taken place then why are they allowing it to continue on in the world today? In a way, the action of becoming a spectator or a coward is the first step towards getting involved in a cause to prevent something from ever occurring again.


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