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War Is Only Half the StoryReview - War Is Only Half the Story
The Aftermath Project, Vol. 1
by Jim Goldberg & Wolf Bowig
Aperture, 2008
Review by Christian Perring
Dec 9th 2008 (Volume 12, Issue 50)

The Aftermath Project sponsors photographic work that highlights the effects of war on a people or place.  This first volume shows the work of their 2007 grand winners.  The $20,000 grant winner was Jim Goldberg for his project "The New Europeans."  The work in the book is mainly from the Ukrainian portion of the project.  The photographs are intentionally published in a draft form, with some marks indicating how they should look in their final version.  Some of the photographs by Goldberg have writing on them, giving the words of the person pictured.  Other pictures are manipulated or juxtaposed with other images in ways that are self-consciously artistic.  In many cases, it is not clear what or who is pictured, and the overall impression of the set is a collection of downtrodden people. 

The project by Wolf Böwig is much more straightforward and readable, showing a young man, Morie, who, when he was five, was the sole survivor in a tribal massacre in Bonthe Island, in the south of Sierra Leone, which went through a civil war from 1991 to2002.  These dark photographs show Morie, the family he lives with, his school, and his work.  The black and white images framed by large expanses of black give a grim impression.  The composition of Böwig's images is especially strong: these are powerful images in themselves, even without the awful narrative that lies behind them. 

There are shorter sections for Andrew Stanbridge's project on Laos, Asim Rafiqui's project on Haiti, and Paula Luttringer's work on mothers and children who were disappeared during Agentina's Dirty War.  Luttringer's combination of black and white images that are slightly abstract and mysterious, with quotations from women that helps the reader understand what is depicted, is especially strong.  One image shows a high window from inside a room, with stained walls, with a quotation from Isabel Fernandez Blanco that starts "How could they not hear the screams if the torture room was next to the street?" 

This is a powerful collection of images in an important cause.  While Goldberg's work is the most conceptually sophisticated in the book, the work of the others carries more direct journalistic interest and emotional power. 

Links:

·         Aperture Foundation

·         The Aftermath Project

·         Article by Sara Terry on The Aftermath Project for the Women's International Perspective

© 2008 Christian Perring

Christian Perring, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York.


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