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Conflict, Time, Photography

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The “Conflict • Time • Photography •” exhibition at Tate Modern was possibly one of the most intriguing, moving exhibitions I have visited. It focused on the aftermath of war, moments, days, months, and sometimes years after. The photography portrays the often devastating effects of some of history’s most famous wars, from the American Civil War, to the Nagasaki and Hiroshima nuclear attacks. The different pieces provide an insight into how life continues after war, and the slow and steady progress made by people moving on. My particularly favourite installation was by Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, and was a large wall covered in small frames with small photos from 2011, capturing moments from different lives that have been affected by war. There was a great deal of variety in what they showed. Some of the photos were sweet and moving, others humorous, whilst some acted as reminders of the horrific reality of war and the troubles of life afterwards. One eye-catching snapshot was of a man whose face was covered and was simply holding a sign that read, “I terrorise pensioners and sell glue to underage children”. Another was of somebody standing on stilts, yet nearby, there was also an image of a soldier suffering from saddening and excruciating looking long term injuries. The piece encouraged you to imagine the stories behind each snapshot, and to delve deeper into each.
A single image of a shell-shocked US Marine moments after his involvement in the Battle of Hue of the Vietnam War. The image is a shot of the man in close proximity. Nothing distracts you from his expression, which is one of many emotions I doubt I could begin to explain successfully. Despite clearly not being able to relate directly with the Marine in the image, the captured soldier seems unable to even acknowledge a camera so close to him, and his fixed gaze suggests an element of confusion and fear. This highlighted the trauma of war, and made me dwell and reflect. It was one of the most moving parts of the exhibition. I also noticed that this piece was one which many of the visitors spent a longer time observing.

The exhibition also featured a room which contained multiple war artefacts, some belonging to soldiers, some to families, and other miscellaneous belongings. The room was covered in bright wallpaper and the atmosphere inside was a clear contrast to what lay on show outside. Whilst before, the exhibition was mainly a space for quiet reflection on deeply moving pieces, this room buzzed with curiosity. Other visitors and I hovered across the room, examining what was on show. A case in the centre contained wallets, photographs and random findings which each had their own fascinating backstory. To my right, the walls had intriguing posters plastered across them, of women, advertisements and more. This made the wars the pieces came from more real and alive, and the room in general was very interesting, and a significant change from the previous vibe in the other sections which contained the photography.

I would highly recommend this exhibition to anyone interested, as does my friend who came with me. It is a showcase of some really stunning, thought-provoking photography, and shouldn’t be missed. It runs until the 15ht March. Adult entry: £13.10, Concession £11.30.
by Anahita Parsa, Tate Ambassador.

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