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A Closer Look: Iraq | Perspectives

Iraq | Perspectives -- Benjamin Lowy
Benjamin Lowy has been to Iraq perhaps more times than he can count — the photographs in this book span six years of his dedication in photographing our on-going war. Winner of the biennial Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, juror William Eggleston’s statement about Lowy’s work appears nestled among the first few images in the book: “These images were practically asking to be in a book together -- everything about them -- the conception, the subject, the fact that we’re still at war, the way the pictures were taken. Benjamin’s work is an opportunity to see as an American soldier sees when in Iraq -- nobody I know of has ever shown that, especially through night vision goggles.”
-- William Eggleston

from Iraq | Perspectives
from Iraq | Perspectives
The perspectives are straight forward: literal views from the eyes of the soldiers — through the windows of Humvees and the green aura of night vision goggles. The technique is as clever as it is simple, but renders results that far outstrip what could potentially feel gimmicky in lesser hands. The twice framed images in Windows show a street view reality of life for Iraqis, complete with blast walls, trash, rubble and decay. Through the small windows we catch glimpses of life in a country devastated by war, yet it is a restrictive view. It would be easy to gaze through these windows as if you were watching TV, removing yourself from the realities of these environemnts, but the pane of glass and lens between Lowy and his subject doesn’t twice remove the viewer of this book — the acknowledgement of the extra filter somehow draws us closer. The ghostly green images of Night Vision are an altogether different view. Here, the viewer is even more removed, drawn into a glowing dreamscape. It’s easy to be seduced by the still grainy beauty of these images, which makes it all the more jarring when Lowy’s night vision goggle-strapped lens captures soldiers carrying out nocturnal raids. A face full of terror stars blindly into the dark, and an unsettling voyeuristic feeling emerges as our gaze is directed to rooms of sleeping children. These two perspectives combine powerfully — they are difficult to forget.

from Iraq | Perspectives
from Iraq | Perspectives
I’m not one to shirk engaging the discussion of a book but Iraq | Perspectives puts me in an unusual place. It is an important, memorable and arresting photobook, and for all these reasons I’m left rather without anything to say. This book is hard for me to talk about simply because the work speaks so extraordinarily well for itself. The images that are compact and succinct, presenting at once the literal and metaphorical. It is among the best representations of the day to day realities of our soldiers and the psychological boundaries keeping us from comprehending Iraq and this war. -- Sarah Bradley

Lowy was recently interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. Watch the interview below.


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