What We Think Now.
Young People's Response to the U.S. Involvement in Iraq.
Jonathan Hollingsworth, essay by Ciara Ennis
52 pp., forty-one, four color plates, 8x10".
Signed copies available!
In What We Think Now, Jonathan Hollingsworth recontextualizes
the political poster, long a staple of civil
disobedience, to fit 21st-century wars and the profound
views they generate. In 2004, the photographer began
canvassing communities in California, such as Los
Angeles, Santa Ana and San Francisco, looking to capture
the thoughts of young people about America's
military engagement in Iraq. A year after the invasion
began, Hollingsworth asked people under 30 to write
down their opinions and be photographed holding their
signs because ". . . the burden of war would fall heaviest
on us. Only the young are asked to sacrifice their lives.”
His images create a portrait of a generation separated by
divergent political attitudes and, ultimately, from itself.
Sandwiched between cover images that evoke apologetic
apathy and the philosophy of politics, the statements
written in What We Think Now run the gamut of
opinion (and test the boundaries of grammar and punctuation).
In 2005, with the intentions and implications of
the war deeply in question, it comes as no surprise that
even this small, selective sampling of opinions would
yield a wide array of assessments. What does surprise is
the isolation created by the format that Hollingsworth
has chosen, a format that refers to Gillian Wearing’s
series “Signs That Say What You Want Them To Say And
Not Signs That Say What Someone Else Wants You To
Say” from the early ‘90s. Like Wearing’s subjects,
Hollingsworth's messengers transmit strong, personal
stances taken alone. Partisanship about the war has
eroded any common ground where political debate can
take place, even among people of the same age group.
The physical isolation in which these political opinions
find expression is a stirring and telling metaphor for the
lack of forums in America where actual debate of the
issues can occur. Sequencing plays an important part in
portraying this alienation from the political discourse.
The statements and their authors face each but don’t
address each other; these are, for the most part, singular
opinions expressed without an audience, except for the
silent viewer. Only on a few spreads do the statements
seem to speak to each other, temporarily re-establishing
the semblance of exchange. Perhaps this is the format
38 photo-eye Booklist Winter 2006
that political expression takes for the youth of the 21st
century, a generation entrenched in the solitary forms of
communication offered by texting and instant messaging.
Hollingsworth’s book offers an archive of individual
opinions about the war in Iraq that will resonate long
after today’s headlines from Baghdad and Washington
have been cached.-MARY GOODWIN
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