war

Established by Congress in 1984, The US Institute of Peace (USIP) works to promote the building of peace “to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflict” abroad. The independent, nonpartisan institute aims to reach that monumental goal through its work by resolving armed conflict peacefully and in thwarting future crises.

Apropos of their mission, an exhibition of photographs by photojournalists working in war zones inaugurates the USIP’s new gallery in the spacious ground floor hall of their headquarters building. “Imagine: Reflections on Peace” is co-sponsored by the VII Foundation and opens to the public on June 2nd. The exhibition has traveled to Europe and the Middle East and is here for its only North American showing until August 1st exploring the subject of war and post conflict peace building.

The show’s premise questions “Why is it so difficult to make a good peace when it is so easy to imagine?” Gary Knight, a veteran war correspondent and co-founder of the VII Foundation, said he was inspired to create an exhibit that explored peace beyond the definition of “the absence of war” for a deeper look in how to establish and maintain sustainable conditions that create a lasting peace.

Addressing his inspiration in creating the exhibit Knight said, “The “Imagine” project was born when I returned home from photographing the invasion of Iraq, where–eventually–more than four thousand US servicemen and women and a quarter of a million Iraqi civilians would perish. I tried to imagine what peace there might look like. I am no stranger to war, but I was appalled by what I saw and could not imagine how a dialogue about peace could even be started. If we can only think of peace as the absence of war, we have failed.”

The show delves into the subject of war, conflict and post-war peace building through works by photojournalists who in recording war, resultant damage and political negotiations utilizes the power of photography “…to transform visual journalism by empowering new voices and creating stories that advocate change.” A noble effort that is desperately need in today’s rapidly changing and conflicted world.

The works on display are presented on large panels by country and include photographers Don McCullin, Ron Haviv and Gilles Peress whose careers have placed them in violent conflict zones to witness war first-hand. The exhibition covers conflicts from 1990 to 2022 including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cambodia, Colombia, Iraq, Northern Ireland, Lebanon, Rwanda, Syria and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The panel on Lebanon shows Beirut’s infamous “Snipers Corner” the former apartment house on the “Green Line” as it is today, a typical looking war-ravaged building, with photos of Civil War victims displayed in its ground floor windows as a memorial to those killed during the conflict. In another photograph the portrait of a former airplane hijacker is shown both in his youth and as he appeared many years later as an older man holding a grandchild shortly before his death.

On the Afghan panel in addition to scenes of the war against Russia is a photo taken by Bill “Fitz” Fitz-Patrick in the White House of Ronald Regan in a meeting with Mujahadin leaders who have since become today’s Taliban. It is ironic in that an Afghan woman is also present during the talks especially so considering women’s roles in the aftermath of the American withdrawal.

An eerie portrait of the Fako family in Sarajevo left behind in their home by Serbian soldiers shows their methodical defacement by someone who removed each members face and added a kebob spear superimposed on their bodies. In another photographer Ron Aviv gained access to Trnopolje, the Bosnian Serb prison camp showing the emaciated bodies of starving prisoners standing around aimlessly.

Addressing the desirable outcome on the effect of viewing the exhibition, Knight related that, “…we hope to help engage the public, especially our youth, by amplifying the imperative, the value, and the nobility of daring to imagine a world without violent conflict. We hope to encourage people to see that peace, far from being the absence of something or the space between wars, is attainable and the highest human achievement.”

Phil Pasquini is a freelance journalist and photographer. His reports and photographs appear in the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pakistan Link and Nuze.ink. He is the author of Domes, Arches and Minarets: A History of Islamic-Inspired Buildings in America.


Countercurrents is answerable only to our readers. Support honest journalism because we have no PLANET B. Subscribe to our Telegram channel


GET COUNTERCURRENTS DAILY NEWSLETTER STRAIGHT TO YOUR INBOX


Comments are closed.