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Home » Conflict, Time, Photography Review, Tate Modern | The Fingerprint of War

Conflict, Time, Photography Review, Tate Modern | The Fingerprint of War

The photos may vary visually, yet hold a single theme – the devastating aftermath of war.

From powerful images where conflict has left it’s fingerprint to objects which represent those lost, Conflict, Time, Photography takes the audience on an emotional journey.

Displayed by date taken, the exhibition begins with photographs moments after the act of violence and ends at 100 years later.

Questioning ‘what’s left after war?’, Conflict, Time, Photography displays the brutally honest answers in photographs.

Blood may have washed away, but instruments of war such as plane engines and aerial bombs remain elephant sized reminders of what took place. Aerial shots show land peppered with crater sized holes, smoke still billowing into the air.

Soldiers still patrol the streets years later while citizens try to live a normal life despite the sight of guns on every street corner. Ghost towns limbo between existing and forever unfinished.

And it’s not just the land and cityscapes which suffer. People are changed in an instant.

Don McCullin shell shocked soldier

Don McCullin’s portrait of a shell shocked soldier moments after conflict

Reknown war photographer Don McCullin’s photograph of a soldier moments after conflict. Focusing intensely past the camera, his piercing gaze defines the phrase ‘looks like you’ve seen a ghost’.

Emeric Lhuisset, my favourite work of Conflict, Time, Photography, centres around the death of a politically outspoken student murdered on the streets late at night – no one was prosecuted. Lhuisset uses salty paper which turns black in the sunlight. Posted across town, what was once visible in the morning, faded by midday leaving only a black rectangle – perhaps a more haunting image than before.

Another piece of work which long sticks in my memory after the exhibition is Hiromi Tsuchida’s simple use of objects against a pure white background to represent the innocent who lost their life. These posthumous portraits feature objects such as half a pair of glasses and a short paragraph below explaining who they belonged to and how they died. This belonging to a young girl, the other half of the glasses fused to her eye socket.

As years go by, landscapes are able to change with time, on the surface.

Julian Rosefeldt’s Hidden City shows Hitler’s headquarters in Munich, now the University of Music and Performing Arts. A photograph shows a harpist practicing – in Hitler’s breakfast room.

The rooms may have been transformed into classrooms but underneath the building remains a passageway of bunkers. Signs such as bullet holes on a metal door hint at what events took place.

A separate exhibition, A Guide For the Protection of the Public in the Peace Time, portrays another view of conflict. Filled from floor to ceiling are proud portraits of persons in uniform – before war. This contrasts largely to the main exhibition, almost honouring the action of serving your country. Yet there are still reminders which connect both exhibitions.

Large bomb casings hang precariously overhead while I look at a stack of books on amnesia. Personal belongings are displayed in large cases with photos of loved ones – trapped forever in history.

A real eye opener to the legacy of war, Conflict, Time, Photography is a must see and, for me, will be a contender for best photography exhibition at the end of the year.

Displayed at Tate Modern until 15 March, log in to the galleries wi-fi and listen to the mobile audio guide which explains a little about each room by the artists and curators. Find out more about Conflict, Time, Photography in the preview videos below.

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