Grantee/Partner News

Veterans’ portraits bring war’s consequences into sharp focus

March 2, 2015

Grantee News From New York Foundation for the Arts (Soldiers Stories):

LA Times, Article By DAVID PAGEL

War isn’t what it used to be.

Nor are war stories.

Since 2006, Jennifer Karady has been making elaborately staged portraits of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither a journalist nor a documentary photographer, the Brooklyn-based artist invites us to think differently about war by using photography to bring some of its consequences — and otherwise invisible realities — into sharp focus.

In the 20th century, photography and later television brought war home — making U.S. viewers acutely aware of the flesh-and-blood consequences of battles, bombings and firefights. For photographers and camera operators, that meant being on the frontline, under fire and in the thick of things.

Karady stays close to home but does something similar. Her work begins with veterans who have brought the war home — in memories, flashbacks, dreams and nightmares — after the physical violence has subsided yet before the psychological turmoil has settled.

In a phone interview, the 48-year-old artist said, “I knew early on that I wanted to try to tell different kinds of stories. Some that really challenge your idea of what a war story is.”

Sixteen of those make up “Jennifer Karady: In Country, Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan.” At the Palm Springs Art Museum, Karady’s exhibition pairs 4-foot-square photographs with printed accounts (two to seven paragraphs long) of the soldiers’ experiences that led to the pictures.

Some are heart-wrenching. Most are harrowing. All are brutally honest. Many include more violence than seems humanly possible. There are moments of compassion, jolts of humor and no shortage of inexplicable coincidences, when logic falls short and belief reaches its breaking point. The individuality of veterans comes through, their voices unique, their experiences singular.

When the first wave of veterans began returning from the Iraq War, Karady was struck by their stories, which appeared in newspapers, online and eventually in the New England Journal of Medicine. She recalls, “I thought, ‘Wow! — these are such important stories. Maybe there’s some way I can work with soldiers.'”

Through veterans’ groups, she met former soldiers, explained how she worked as an artist and began interviewing those who were interested. Initial sessions led to second, third and fourth meetings. Often, spouses, parents and children were included, in both the interviews and the photo shoots.

Over the last 10 years, Karady has interviewed 71 veterans and completed 20 portraits.

“Listening is the key ingredient to my artistic process,” she says, “probably the skill that serves me best. The intimacy of really hearing the person’s voice is powerful.  More>

LA Times, Article By DAVID PAGEL


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