Title: Selected Images of Gilles Peress: The beginning of the Krajina war, a church ransacked by the retreating Serb forces, near Knin
Gelatin silver print
Dimensions: Image: 12 3/4 x 19 inches (32.4 x 48.3 cm)
Sheet: 16 x 20 inches (40.6 x 50.8 cm)
Gift of Richard S. Gold
Object Number: 98.075.006
Flashpoints traces notable highlights in the trajectory of one of the preeminent photojournalists of the twentieth century, Gilles Peress. He joined Magnum Photos in 1971 and soon after undertook a number of high-profile assignments. His ongoing Hate Thy Brother project began with his work covering the civil rights struggles between the Irish and the English in Northern Ireland, which led to the infamous Bloody Sunday massacre. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts enabled him to photograph the Iranian Revolution in 1979; Hate Thy Brother continued when he spent six months in 1993 covering sectarian violence in the Balkans during the Bosnian war, subsequently documenting the atrocities of the Rwandan genocide.
The photographs from this series comprise mostly straight documentary shots of crowds, refugees awaiting aid, and eruptions of violence and their aftermaths. Others in the series are less illustrative of a single time or place: hands pressing against either side of a train window in Skandera, Sarajevo; or a shrouded corpse left on the ground following the Nyarubuye massacre in Rwanda, whose outline just barely materializes beneath the folds of the cloth enveloping it. Such images can raise questions about what it means to look at others’ tragedy. Does work by photographers like Peress have the power to mobilize us toward meaningful action, or are we merely consuming such imagery in a futile attempt to change what we are powerless to counteract? ("All for One and One for All: Portfolios from the Permanent Collection," co-curated by Andrea Inselmann and Sonja Gandert and presented at the Johnson Museum June 24-August 20, 2017)
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