Photographs by Kathryn Cook, Natela Grigalashvili, Tinka Dietz, Pep Bonet and Christine Fenzl.
The Aftermath Project, , 2009. Softbound. 92 pp., Color and black & white illustrations throughout, 11x11".
War Is Only Half the Story Photographs by Kathryn Cook, Natela Grigalashvili, Tinka Dietz, Pep Bonet and Christine Fenzl. Published by The Aftermath Project, 2009.
My dear, departed friend and mentor Ted Hartwell (1933-2007), the founding curator of the photography department at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, assembled a collection that includes several thousand prints that reflected Ted's passion for "pictures that tell a story." He was drawn to great photojournalists and documentary photographers who chose to inform the world about truths going untold. He admired photographs that vibrated with life and valued the sensations a successful example gave of honesty, transparency of intention, and simplicity in execution. Gave, past tense, and continued to give-a truly great photograph fulfills its mission of enlightenment over decades, not just days.
There is a speculative aspect to the photographs included in both the first and second volumes of The Aftermath Project's War is Only Half the Story. How will this work survive those decades? Will it pass the fifty-year test that Dorothea Lange held up as a standard for her own work? Will it gather greater meaning or shrink in on itself as life moves in contrary directions? Undeniably powerful now, the test of time's passage will tell whether the five photographers in the current volume have touched upon eternal or merely ephemeral truths in their story-telling. Aftermath's 2008 grant winner, Kathryn Cook, addressed this quandary by seeking out evidence of the Turkish genocide of Armenians almost a century ago. Rightfully, her allusive, ominous images occupy half of this economically bound volume. Captions are pushed to the end of the section (in all five cases), and the photographs do their job, telling an old story using contemporary impressions of space and random evidence of disappearance. How, again, does one photograph absence, or depict memory? Cook, and finalists Pep Bonet, Tinka Dietz, Christine Fenzl, and Natela Grigalashvili, provide answers that vary somewhat in methodology but not at all in passion of execution.
Ted would have liked this book. Its 92 pages include only 18 that do not offer large reproductions of photographs; image story dominates anything textual. Writing is limited to statements by the photographers and Aftermath project director Sara Terry, some important contextual information about the project, and the above-mentioned captions. This project, and the work it supports, deserves on-going recognition and kudos; our world is constantly in a post-war state, and everyone suffers. Photographers can help; if nothing else, as clarion reminders that war and its effects are a self-inflicted part of human life on Earth. We will be free of the need for The Aftermath Project only when war itself vanishes from memory, when all generations have lived without its pernicious, pervasive impact and these volumes offer the only records.