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What We Think Now.
Young People's Response to the U.S. Involvement in Iraq.

Jonathan Hollingsworth, essay by Ciara Ennis
Jonathan Hollingsworth, Santa Fe, 2006. 52 pp., forty-one, four color plates, 8x10".

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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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