Monday, January 31, 2011

Ashley Gilbertson- Opportunity Lost

As were many others, I too was bowled over by the sheer power and eloquence of the imagery in Bedrooms Of The Fallen, Ashley Gilbertson's moving tribute to fallen American soldiers. He is now on Kickstarter accepting funds to expand this series, and I wish him all the luck in the world. But.......

I had hoped that he would not only expand the number of images, but had also planned to expand its scope, to pay tribute to the most forgotten innocents- the men, women and children who were at the wrong place at the wrong time, be it going to school, crossing the street or eating dinner in their own homes. Yes, I know he's planning a second volume to do perhaps just that. But many of those interested in the first volume will never look beyond their own comfort zone and venture into the world of the second (assuming it does get made). Here is a project with the potential to transcend a one sided tribute to fallen comrades (exceptional as it may be- and is) and take it to a whole other level that can provide the opportunity to do what only truly great art can do- initiate conversation and offer insight to those not usually open to what their own eyes can show them.

No need to mention that Mr. Gilbertson is a well respected, thoroughly accomplished and honored conflict photojournalist who will continue to lead a most fruitful and productive life without need of my advice, opinion or criticism now or ever. He was the one taking photos and dodging bullets, he has every damn right to make his project any damn way he well sees fit. One must also then consider, and rather fairly I think, how his decisions have been influenced by the fact that he was an embed for as long as he was. Would it be presented in a more balanced format from the get go, had he not? Would either be made were he not? Regardless, there is no doubt that that singular experience can significantly alter your sympathies, priorities, loyalties.

This project, no matter the amount of images, will  serve at least indirectly, to glorify the honor, sacrifice and dignity of the one side "most worth remembering." It will not expose the one side to the other, and will foster limited insight beyond its preset, territorial boundaries of country, sacrifice and patriotism. Each volume will play to its very own preselected, predetermined choir.


John Edwin Mason said...

I have to agree with you, Stan. The photos are powerful, indeed. But they will tend to reinforce most viewers' (perhaps unconscious) belief that the only important dead are American and NATO dead.

A far more challenging and important project would have been to find ways to get Americans to feel the same grief for the Afghan dead (soldiers and civilians) and empathize with those who mourn them.

Stan B. said...

As it stands, the work makes for a most fitting memorial and tribute to one side. But work this good, if it embraced a more inclusive approach, would have the potential to open hearts and minds on a universal level.