|« previous | blog | next »|
January 7, 2008
Photographer Lori Grinker has been documenting the personal impacts of wars for more that 15 years. In 2007, Lens Culture featured work from her award-winning book, Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict. From January 9-February 16, 2008, Nailya Alexander Gallery in NYC is presenting “Iraq: Scars and Exile,” Grinkers most recent series that captures the physical and emotional wounds inflicted upon a cross section of individual Iraqis and families by the ongoing war in Iraq.
"Mike" translator for the US in his military uniform. Iraqi Refugees. Amman, Jordan. April 2007. Photo © 2007 Lori Grinker
"Mike" translator for the US in traditional Turkmen dress. Iraqi Refugees. Amman, Jordan. April 2007. Photo © 2007 Lori Grinker
Living-Sleeping room. Iraqi Refugees. Amman, Jordan. April 2007. Photo © 2007 Lori Grinker
Q & A with Lori Grinker about Iraq: Scars and Exile
Of all the Iraqi refugees you’ve met and images you’ve taken, which ones have impacted you the most?
There are so many... A 7-year-old in Amman brushes his hair in the mirror and sees only half a face reflected back. An Iraqi father of two, wounded while working as a translator for the Americans now in New York City struggles to start life anew. A large, extended family lives illegally in Amman, running out of time and money. A teenager arrives in Amman, a smile on his face, a baseball cap hide the fact that he has no ears, with a video camera on his shoulder he looks like a tourist, only he is here to endure several surgeries to fix his burned hands. They have equal impact in the long run but the first few days after meeting the 7-year-old, it was his face that stayed with me when I closed my eyes to sleep at night.
After photographing veterans of war for years, what drove you to begin yet another personal fight against war?
It's the scale...and the impact. According to UN statistics, over 4 million Iraqis have fled their homes. 500,000-750,000 are in Jordan, an estimated 1.4 million are in Syria, 70,000 are in Egypt, and 200,000 are in the Gulf Region. These are some of the people the U.S. government went in to free from the rule of Saddam Hussein. Among them are people who helped the U.S. with their mission, and many were happy to receive the U.S. forces in 2003. I want the world, especially Americans, to know that we’ve abandoned them. By sharing their post-war experiences as they become residents of other countries, struggle to make ends meet as refugees, or find new ways to live with the wounds of war, viewers can learn about the true cost of war, its effects on a population, and come to understand more about their own relationship to conflict. Most Americans are unaware of what life has become for so many Iraqis. We see stories about US soldiers. We get daily reports about suicide bombs. We read accounts of civilian casualties. But we don’t see Iraqi survivors, the hard working, family-oriented people — doctors, carpenters, engineers, teachers, homemakers, students — that the American government invaded Iraq to set free and have broken our promise to protect.
If there is a message you wish to relay in this exhibition, in addition to the folly of war, what would that be?
This has become one of the largest refugee crises in Middle East history but it’s difficult to fathom since these people are not refugees in tented camps, waiting in line to get aid from the UN organizations. In fiscal year 2007, only 1,608 of a promised 7,000 refugees were admitted into the U.S. The U. S. Government has now set a goal of bringing in 12,000 Iraqi refugees in fiscal year 2008, with an additional 5,000 visas to be granted among the more than 100,000 Iraqis employed by the U.S. or U.S. Government contractors. This plan passed Congress, but as of this writing (12/20/07), has not yet been signed into law. The relocation of 12,000 Iraqis by the end of September 2008 is a start, but certainly not a solution. Millions of lives are at risk, and I would like to tell the stories of just a few...
You can find more info at the gallery web site: Nailya Alexander Gallery