I must admit ‘Conflict, Time, Photography‘ at the Tate Modern was not what I had expected. Before attending the exhibition I had not heard anything about it, all I knew was that the Tate had curated an exhibition of conflict photography. I expected it to be brimming with iconic war photography like Nick Ut’s The Terror of War (commonly referred to as Napalm Girl). But apart from Roger Fenton’s The Valley of the Shadow of Death and Don McCullin’s shell-shocked US marine it was all pretty new to me.
The work is arranged chronological according to how long after a conflict event the work was made. The exhibition starts with image made a ‘Moment later’, images taken immediately after an act of violence which includes a large landscape photograph by Luc Delahaye of smoke rising from an air strike in Afghanistan from 2001. I was surprised to see an unfamiliar view of the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima which was taken 20 minutes after the first atomic bomb was used in warfare.
After a ‘Moment later’ the show moves further away in time: Days weeks later, 1-10 months later, 5-20 years later and so on. As the projects move further away in time they become more considered projects from a mix of established and emerging artists.
The curators of ‘Conflict, Time, Photography’ gave creative control to artists in how their work was displayed, this shows as the work is hung in a variety of different ways, some of the projects like Jim Goldberg’s ‘Open See’ documenting the aftermath of the Congo wars are an installation in themselves.
Every time I turned a corner I kept expecting to see Giles Duley’s work tell the story of Afghan civilian amputees. I was also surprised to see no work based on the Falklands conflict as it has been the subject of quite a lot of photographers work, especially since the 30th anniversary has recently passed. The last project was made 99 years after the start of the first world war, it depicts the location where allied soldiers were shot for desertion when in reality they where suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Each of the inconspicuous looking dawn landscapes were taken close to the date and time that executions took place.
The exhibition is only open till the 15th of March. If you don’t get a chance to get to the Tate I recommend you take a look at the exhibition catalog which features all the projects and text from the exhibition, while the book is great it does not come close to seeing the work in the flesh.