Reaction to War Exhibit

As I go through my scribbled notes I can recall with great detail the images I saw. I felt a connection with such photos not only because they showed young man my age but also they so accurately depicted scenes in which I had read or learned about. To me it showed war was nothing new; it is occurs in many points in history and across all different continents, cultures, and backgrounds. War brought about such powerful emotions in the subjects of the pictures I began to rethink and feel that I really could not relate these photographs. What did I know about charging a beach or hopping over trenches or hacking through a jungle or being faced with death or watching comrades die or being imprisoned or finally returning home? In all honesty I did not and had not experienced anything comparable but that is why I think these photographs are so powerful. They capture such strong emotions that can only be brought in under the circumstances of war like the joy a soldier feels when he gets off the plane and returns home or the jubilation when he is freed from imprisonment or the fear when he faces execution or the melancholy look of a parent who has lost his or her child. As hard as they may be to witness, I believe we have a duty to see the reality of conflict and at least try to comprehend those indescribable sentiments only those touched by war know.  

 

Douglas Singer

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3 thoughts on “Reaction to War Exhibit”

  1. I felt a similar feeling as I passed through the Gallery last week. I found that I could easily relate to young men seen in the images, even those from close to a century ago. Frankly, I was overcome by the photographs I saw in the exhibit. As I peered into the brief window that was each photograph, I could easily see my father and grandfathers, who had served in the military, in the faces of each young man depicted. I found the image of Dresden to be particularly moving; my grandfather had participated in the bombing of Dresden, and after being shot down shortly after finishing a raid, was saved by the very same Dresdenites that he had bombed minutes ago. This brought home to me the absurdity of war, the gross inhumanity of man killing man, often over trivial issues. I was also conflicted, however. As I looked at some of the images from wars between foreign nations, such as the Rwandan and Armenian genocides, I felt a sense of guilt, that some sort of outside entity should have intervened to prevent the ruthless slaughter of innocent civilians. Such is the paradox of war, so brilliantly illustrated by these photographs.

  2. I was also very surprisingly moved by that Dresden photo, which I had seen many times before. But this time, it struck me what I was actually looking at–despite being grouped in the exhibit under “Destruction of Property” what I was looking at was evidence of the destruction of thousands of civilian lives. Today, we would probably call this terrorism. But the Allies fire-bombed Japan in similar ways, indiscriminately killing hundreds of thousands of civilians well before the atomic bombs were even contemplated.
    Your grandfather’s story is amazing and, yes, absurd.

  3. Throughout the exhibit, I felt similar pull towards the images because the men depicted were of my age. Similarly, I felt the most pull towards images that showed soldiers coming back from war. All over the internet, there are videos of soldiers surprising their family members with the soldier’s return. Seeing the shock and joy of the loved ones is always moving and just looking at the pictures caused me to remember those videos and how I sympathized with those family members. Through these pictures, civilians are able to see the great sacrifices that soldiers make. The concept of leaving your loved ones for an unspecified amount of time is already devastating enough. Actually witnessing a person return to said loved ones conjures up emotions that would make any civilian appreciate what soldiers do for their country. Pictures that show what soldiers go through in the name of their country connects the ones back home to the raw emotions that go with war.

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