05 October 2013

WIIGF? The Aftermath Project

From theaftermathproject.org home page
What is war good for? Unfortunately, it has given us a lot of significant photography. I say unfortunate, because most war photographers would say they'd like to be out of a job. Sara Terry, whose work as founder and artistic director of The Aftermath Project has been going on since 2005, might express the same wish.

Terry is an established photographer. Her multi-year project Bosnia's Long Road to Peace brought home to her the need to continue attending to locations of conflict long after headline news has turned its focus elsewhere. She guided the evolution of the project until 2012, when managing director Gretchen Landau joined the team. Together, the two oversee the grant program (deadline for 2014 funding is this November 11 link), the publications, and educational outreach for the non-profit.

It is useful to visit the project web site and review the work that has been done under Aftermath's aegis. It is critical to recognize that this is not combat photography. One must keep in mind Brady and O'Sullivan on Civil War battlefields, or Fenton on the Crimean Peninsula, in that there is no war currently happening in these photographs. (Those mid-19th century photographs would exemplify the most immediate kind of "aftermath" images.) The projects supported reflect not only geo-political and ethno-cultural range, they also move way back in time. In some cases, armed aggression ended decades before the contemporary photographer arrived. The effects of conflict may endure beyond the lives of firsthand witnesses. The suggestion is implicit; there may, in fact, be very little life on this planet that does not qualify for attention as life impacted by war

I am one of two people who have written about The Aftermath Project in conjunction with their annual publications of award winners and finalists titled War is Only Half the Story:
  • Volume 4 (2011; GS review published on photo-eye blog 9/10/2012)
  • Volume 3 (2010; Joscelyn Jurich review published on photo-eye site 4/11/2011)
  • Volume 2 (2009; GS review published on photo-eye site 11/24/2009)
Volume 1 was published in December 2008 and featured Jim Goldberg's 2007 series "The New Europeans"; volume 5 was released last December. All volumes are listed as available through the project's web site; a link to the bookstore can be found in the banner on the home page.

Those awards are given each year to "working photographers worldwide covering the aftermath of conflict." As I see it, the more such work gets noticed, the more the negative effects of armed conflict are imprinted on our species, the less likely we may be to think that war only affects those nearest to it, or that war actually solves anything. The more warlike we behave, the less human we become.

Link to 5-minute video about Sara Terry's work in Bosnia