Critics’ Picks

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Untitled (Man grieving), 2010, fiber print, 3 x 4".

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Untitled (Man grieving), 2010, fiber print, 3 x 4".


“Conflict, Time, Photography”

Museum Folkwang
Museumsplatz 1
April 10–July 5, 2015

Not just a historical overview of war photography, but a distillation of 150 years of photojournalistic documentation, artistic reflection, and conceptual mediation, “Conflict, Time, Photography” presents the medium’s engagement with the both the physical effects and social aftermath of conflict and war, via the works of sixty-one artists.

This exhibition’s strength lies in its organization of images not by chronology but rather by the amounts of time elapsed between conflicts and their subsequent depiction—beginning with the immediate, such as Adam Broomberg & Olivier Chanarin’s The Day Nobody Died, 2008. Traveling as embedded journalists during the Afghan war, they exposed a strip of photographic paper to the sun. The grainy, blue, panorama-like result, with its cloudy explosions of red and brown, evinces the complex semantics of the photographic image, while provocatively flouting the military’s censorship of images.

Produced months after the US dropped atomic bombs on Japan, Matsumoto Eiichi’s photograph of a charred silhouette on a wall in Nagasaki—left by the corpse of an incinerated soldier—suggestively dialogues with Albert Renger-Patzsch’s and Margaret Bourke-White’s images of bombed German cities and Jim Goldberg’s installation uniting text, photographs, and drawings of scarred refugees.

The more time elapses, the more immediate documentation is replaced by acts of allusion and recollection. Chloe Dewe Mathew’s series “Shot at Dawn,” 2013, revisits, nearly a century later, sites where British, French, and Belgium deserters were killed during World War I. Her pictures sensitively capture early-morning landscapes of clearings and fields. Only wall labels bearing the soldiers’ names allude to what photography cannot reveal, while insisting on remembrance.