Gilles Peress French , b. 1946
Take a look at some of the images from Gilles Peress’ work Farewell to Bosnia.
Graphic photographs of destruction , mutilation and death are printed side-by-side with images of a built environment that shows a deadly serenity that only lifelessness can bring. Which of the two styles of imagery triggers the most complex reflective response in the viewer? Is it the photograph of a man who has lost both hands, resting on a hospital bed ? Or is it the photographs of a group of peasants seemingly engaged in digging a ditch -which is actually a mass grave?
“I don’t care so much anymore about ‘good photography’; I am gathering evidence for history” Gilles Peress
The black and white images are visually striking depicting the suffering of those who were caught up in the Bosnian conflict and additional text puts the images into context . My initial reaction to the more graphic images of death and mutilation was one of horror but the impact of the more symbolic imagery , despite being less explicit, led to a more thoughtful in-depth analysis.
I have written my personal reaction to a few of the images below.
Void of people this image here of discarded items following a looting symbolises how conflict reduces real lives to mere fragments of discarded rubbish. It illustrates how people are dispensable in war type situation. But this picture makes me care ,I want to what happened to the original owners of the discarded items, there is a poignancy looking at everyday items carelessness cast aside. Are they alive, were they massacred ? So much suffering and loss is suggested and as such this image has great impact for me.
Scene during sniper fire
This is an interesting image here of what looks to be a youth protecting himself with a national flag ‘shield’ . The sandbags in the background tell us this is a conflict zone , yet the boy’s movement appears almost graceful , he seems to be performing in a macabre ballet . Daily life as lived in a war zone.
No graphic photographic imagery of dead bodies but simply a child’s drawing here . Yet it is so touching and makes you think what the child who drew this has seen and experienced.
Injured children see here always promote an emotive response and get an immediate reaction, yet the picture of the child’s drawing enabled me to imagine how war is see through children’s eyes.
Hospital prosthetic unit
I was mesmerised by this almost surreal image here. Again an image void of any human subject but the prosthetic feet with their associative connotation of amputation suggest rather than show the disabling and life-long injuries not graphically shown. I found myself imagining what must it like to try and walk again , the pain and sheer determination of amputee victims to do so.