|Infidel, Photographs by Tim Hetherington. |
Published by Chris Boot, 2010.
Reviewed by Ellen Rennard
Chris Boot, 2010. Softcover. 240 pp., 200 color illustrations 6x8".
Infidel, with photographs by Tim Hetherington and introductory text by Sebastian Junger, is as nearly perfect as I can imagine a book to be. Let me provide a bit of context for the way I see it. First, I came of age during the Vietnam War and was profoundly influenced by the powerful, iconic photographs of that conflict. However, my general impression of post-Vietnam photographs of Americans in combat has been that there is always something hidden or unseen; I always feel removed from the situation, peering out a tank window either literally or figuratively. I keep looking for the real thing, images that resonate as powerfully as, for example, Eddie Adams' photograph of the execution of a prisoner of war, and while I've seen some good work, I have not found what I was searching for. Until Infidel.
Next are details, some raw and some raunchy -- men playing cards, passing the time -- followed by photographs of combat. To me, fascinating. That way of seeing behind the walls, of feeling the experiences of these men. The surreal juxtaposition of a shadowy figure holding a weapon next to a man in uniform petting a dog - these are the contradictory elements Hetherington aimed to show. As he writes, "War is absurd yet fundamental, despicable yet beguiling, unfair yet with its own strange logic." I cannot think of another book that gets at the complexity of war as well as this one.
I will use excerpts from this book when I teach my course on images of the Vietnam War because I think it adds something to the archive of war photography that has not been shown before: the individuality and unity of men in combat. An awesome and important book for everyone.—Ellen Rennard
Ellen Rennard is a writer, photographer, and teacher of writing and literature at Groton School in Groton, MA. She graduated from Princeton, where she wrote her thesis on images of Native Americans; she also holds an MA in English from Middlebury. Her articles and reviews have appeared in Fraction Magazine and Photovision; her photographs have appeared in numerous publications, including Black and White and Orion. Images from Rennard’s book project on The Downs at Albuquerque were nominated for a New York Photo Festival Book Award in 2009 and won first place in the 2010 Px3 People’s Choice Awards for Book Proposal and Documentary Photography. www.ellenrennard.com