Iraq: Perspectives

Iraq: Perspectives

by Benjamin Lowy
     
 


Selected by William Eggleston as Winner
The Center for Documentary Studies / Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

Benjamin Lowy’s powerful and arresting color photographs, taken over a six-year period through Humvee windows and military-issue night vision goggles, capture the desolation of a war-ravaged Iraq as well as the tension and anxiety of

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Overview


Selected by William Eggleston as Winner
The Center for Documentary Studies / Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

Benjamin Lowy’s powerful and arresting color photographs, taken over a six-year period through Humvee windows and military-issue night vision goggles, capture the desolation of a war-ravaged Iraq as well as the tension and anxiety of both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. To photograph on the streets unprotected was impossible for Lowy, so he made images that illuminate this difficulty by shooting photographs through the windows and goggles meant to help him, and soldiers, to see. In doing so he provides us with a new way of looking at the war—an entirely different framework for regarding and thinking about the everyday activities of Iraqis in a devastated landscape and the movements of soldiers on patrol, as well as the alarm and apprehension of nighttime raids.

“Iraq was a land of blast walls and barbed wire fences. I made my first image of a concrete blast wall through the window of my armored car. These pictures show a fragment of Iraqi daily life taken by a transient passenger in a Humvee; yet they are a window to a world where work, play, tension, grief, survival, and everything in between are as familiar as the events of our own lives. . . . [In] the ‘Nightvision’ images . . . as soldiers weave through the houses and bedrooms of civilians during nighttime military raids, they encounter the faces of their suspects as well as bystanders, many of whom are parents protecting their children. . . . I hope that these images provide the viewer with momentary illumination of the fear and desperation that is war.”—Benjamin Lowy

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Lowy's photos are unmistakably scenes from Iraq—ruined buildings, street vendors, kids with missing limbs, billboards for newly minted cellphone services. In Lowy's images, we see daily life returning to this country, but the children shown have known little but this forlorn landscape. Dreariness is all. The most original component of Lowy's book is the thematic divisions. The first part consists of images captured through the windows of military Humvees, while the second part consists entirely of green night-vision images and yields the most intimate moments, including Iraqi civilians being intimidatd and detained in what appear to be their own homes.” - David Fellerath, The Independent Weekly

“Lowy’s photographs of both daily life and the terror of warfare were taken through the windows of a Humvee and through military-issue night vision goggles. They provide a revealing perspective on what he describes as ‘the fear and desperation that is war.’” - Shelf Unbound (A Top Small Press Books of 2011)

“The mediation inscribed in the image - the window frame, the night vision haze - positions us in relation to the scene. By representing the act of perception, by addressing the experience of observation as much as the observation of experiences, Lowy’s subject is both what the soldier sees and how the soldier sees. The pictures contain the clues and tools that encourage the audience to consider photojournalism as practice. Lowy’s frames do what all photography does, but they do it exceptionally well: they simultaneously invite us to look, and hold us in place.” - Leo Hsu, Foto8

“Whether looking out of armoured car windows or through green-tinted night-vision goggles, the military has little opportunity to connect with the local people or everyday life, as Lowy's shots make chillingly clear.” - British Journal of Photography (named one of their best books of 2011)

“I’m not one to shirk engaging the discussion of a book but Iraq | Perspectives puts me in an unusual place. It is an important, memorable and arresting photobook, and for all these reasons I’m left rather without anything to say. This book is hard for me to talk about simply because the work speaks so extraordinarily well for itself. The images that are compact and succinct, presenting at once the literal and metaphorical. It is among the best representations of the day to day realities of our soldiers and the psychological boundaries keeping us from comprehending Iraq and this war.” - Sarah Bradley, Photo-Eye

"These images were practically asking to be in a book together-everything about them-the conception, the subject, the fact that we're still at war, the way the pictures were taken. Benjamin's work is an opportunity to see as an American soldier sees when in Iraq-nobody's ever shown that, especially through night vision goggles.”—William Eggleston, Prize Judge

Sarah Bradley

“I’m not one to shirk engaging the discussion of a book but Iraq | Perspectives puts me in an unusual place. It is an important, memorable and arresting photobook, and for all these reasons I’m left rather without anything to say. This book is hard for me to talk about simply because the work speaks so extraordinarily well for itself. The images that are compact and succinct, presenting at once the literal and metaphorical. It is among the best representations of the day to day realities of our soldiers and the psychological boundaries keeping us from comprehending Iraq and this war.”
Shelf Unbound (A Top Small Press Books of 2011)

“Lowy’s photographs of both daily life and the terror of warfare were taken through the windows of a Humvee and through military-issue night vision goggles. They provide a revealing perspective on what he describes as ‘the fear and desperation that is war.’”
David Fellerath

“Lowy's photos are unmistakably scenes from Iraq—ruined buildings, street vendors, kids with missing limbs, billboards for newly minted cellphone services. In Lowy's images, we see daily life returning to this country, but the children shown have known little but this forlorn landscape. Dreariness is all. The most original component of Lowy's book is the thematic divisions. The first part consists of images captured through the windows of military Humvees, while the second part consists entirely of green night-vision images and yields the most intimate moments, including Iraqi civilians being intimidatd and detained in what appear to be their own homes.”
Leo Hsu

“The mediation inscribed in the image - the window frame, the night vision haze - positions us in relation to the scene. By representing the act of perception, by addressing the experience of observation as much as the observation of experiences, Lowy’s subject is both what the soldier sees and how the soldier sees. The pictures contain the clues and tools that encourage the audience to consider photojournalism as practice. Lowy’s frames do what all photography does, but they do it exceptionally well: they simultaneously invite us to look, and hold us in place.”
British Journal of Photography (named one of their best books of 2011)

“Whether looking out of armoured car windows or through green-tinted night-vision goggles, the military has little opportunity to connect with the local people or everyday life, as Lowy's shots make chillingly clear.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822351665
Publisher:
Duke University Press Books
Publication date:
10/14/2011
Series:
Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography Series
Pages:
120
Product dimensions:
10.30(w) x 12.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

Benjamin Lowy is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He received a BFA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2002 and began his career in 2003 when he was embedded with the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division to cover the Iraq War. Lowy’s career as a conflict photographer has also taken him to Haiti, Darfur, and Afghanistan, among other places. Lowy’s photographs have appeared in such publications as the New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, Stern, National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal, and Rolling Stone, and his work has been recognized by American Photography, Foam Magazine, POYi, Photo District News (PDN’s 30), World Press Photo, and Critical Mass. His work has been exhibited at San Francisco MOMA, Tate Modern, Open Society Institute’s Moving Walls, Noorderlicht Photofestival, Battlespace, and the Houston Center for Photography, among others. Lowy’s photographs from Iraq were chosen from over two hundred entries as the fifth winner of the biennial CDS/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography.

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Read an Excerpt

Iraq | Perspectives


Duke University Press

Copyright © 2011 William Eggleston
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8223-5166-5


Chapter One

Iraq | Perspectives I: Windows

In July 2005, I was being driven from an assignment—an endeavor that took two cars and four heavily armed Iraqi guards—when my mother called. She asked me if I had the chance to go out with Iraqis, to wander through Baghdad. I told her that this scenario was near to impossible, if not dangerous for someone like me: tall, white, and bald. I explained that I couldn't go anywhere without armed protection; that Iraq was a land of blast walls and barbed wire fences. Her response was one of incredulousness. She had never seen any photographs or news reports illustrating what I described. I made my first image of a concrete blast wall through the window of my armored car that day.

"Iraq | Perspectives I" grew immediately out of that conversation and as a response to what I felt was both the general apathy and the inability of people in the United States to comprehend life during the Iraq War. Confronted by a level of violence so high that walking on the streets to photograph was tantamount to suicidal behavior, I found myself confined to working with American soldiers, spending most of my time going on various missions in armored Humvees. My only view of Iraq was through inches-thick bulletproof windows.

I wondered if Iraqis saw me through these windows. I never knew the answer to that, but I knew that they saw the monstrous convoys of Humvees coming through their neighborhoods. Some stared, some jeered, some cheered, some just went about their business, indifferent to the tons of destructive force driving by. This vantage on the Iraqi street is one rarely seen by the American public, but it is the most common point of view for U.S. soldiers.

These images are not intimate—they reflect a distant and detached perspective on a country that is so empty, so desolate, on a situation so dire. The windows represent a barrier that impedes dialogue. The pictures illustrate a fragment of Iraqi daily life taken by a transient passenger in a Humvee; yet they are a window to a world where work, play, tension, grief, survival, and everything in between is as familiar as the events of our own lives.

Iraq | Perspectives II: Night Vision

During my embeds I was able to use U.S. military-issue night vision goggles, firmly attached to my camera by means of duct tape, dental floss, and occasionally, chewing gum, to make images that reveal a more menacing nocturnal version of Iraq's abandoned streets, cowering civilians, and anxious soldiers.

As with the window photographs, these night vision images were made through a barrier, a technology that allows only a few to pierce the darkness of the Iraqi night. Unlike "Windows," however, this perspective is more intimate. As soldiers weave through the houses and bedrooms of civilians during the nighttime military raids, they encounter the faces of the suspect and the innocent. The urgency and anxiety among these soldiers were as palpable as the terror in the faces of the Iraqi civilians.

With these two series, I aimed to create an "aesthetic bridge" that circumvented the usual depiction of the war, and surmounted public apathy to conventional news imagery. I hope that viewers are compelled to question the meaning of these devastating events and their long-lasting effects on Americans and Iraqis.

More often than not, the rest of Iraq, like the rest of us, are left in the dark, but I hope that these images provide the viewer with momentary illumination about the fear and desperation that is war. —Benjamin Lowy

All of the photographs in this book were taken from 2003 to 2008.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Iraq | Perspectives Copyright © 2011 by William Eggleston. Excerpted by permission of Duke University Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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