Americans have been bombarded by photographs and videos from battlefields far removed from the safety of our cities and towns. War stories come home through veterans’ very personal experiences and images which influence popular video games and are rehearsed through the growing phenomenon of live-action military simulation and recreation. On Sunday evening, borrowing the focus of documentary photographer Meredith Davenport’s new book, we ask questions about the Theater of War. How do images of war enter into and influence our personal narratives, our cultural psyche? Do iconic images of conflict perpetuate trauma? Can games or play using these representations help metabolize the violence? Have war photographs lost their meaning? Is there a new visual vocabulary that could be used to discuss war? Seeking answers and discussion, Meredith Davenport will present her photography alongside presentations from Jessica Catherine Lieberman and Fred Ritchin, both experts on the topic who have written essays for the book. Clips will be shown of the recently released feature, In Country, which documents a community of men who gather each year to dutifully recreate battles from the Vietnam War. The directors of this fascinating film, Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara will join in the conversation remotely.
Theater of War
Edited by Meredith Davenport with essays by Alfredo Cramerotti, Fred Ritchen,Jessica Catherine Lieberman and Esther MacCallum-Stewart, Intellect Press, 2014.
For five years, Meredith Davenport has photographed and interviewed men who play live-action games based on contemporary conflicts, such as a recreation of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden that took place thousands of miles from the conflict zone on a campground in Northern Virginia. Her images speak about the way that trauma and conflict penetrate a culture sheltered from the horrors of war. Bringing together a series of two dozen photographs with essays discussing and analyzing the influence of the media, particularly photographs and video, on the culture at large and how conflict is “discussed” in the visual realm, Theater of War is a unique look at the influence of contemporary conflict, and their omni-presence in the media on popular culture. Written by an experienced photojournalist who has covered a variety of human rights issues worldwide, this book is an essential addition to the library of anyone interested in the confluence of war and media.
“Davenport’s images begin to question some of what war is about by dwelling in the realm of make-believe. Given media’s repetitive fantasies, in some ways her approach may be, paradoxically, more real.” – Fred Ritchen
Directed by Mike Attie and Meghan O’Hara
To many of us, the idea of Civil War re-enactment is a familiar concept. But the men of Delta 2/5(R) recreate the battles of a far more charged conflict: The Vietnam War. For one weekend a year, the woods of Oregon transform as a mix of combat enthusiasts, Iraq veterans, and even a former South Vietnamese Army officer, revive — by choice — a war that a whole generation would much rather forget. Disquieting and provocative, In Country blurs fantasy with trauma, deftly tugging at the imposing question: what compels these men to don the vintage uniforms and meticulously bring this controversial war back to life?
“This movie delicately shares a fascinating aspect of our culture that few people are aware of. But more than the oddity of the reenactments, Mike and Meghan’s film gets to the root of why these men would bring a painful war back to life and its healing process for their PTSD.” – Marc Schiller, BOND/360
Meredith Davenport has a distinguished career in documentary photography. Her photographs have appeared in National Geographic, The New York Times, and on the cover of Newsweek magazine as well as in the highly acclaimed HBO documentary “Child Soldiers.” She is the recipient of a Pew Fellowship in International Journalism. She currently teaches at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Jessica Catherine Lieberman is Assistant Professor of Visual Culture at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where she teaches in the College of Liberal Arts and for the Graduate Photography program in the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences. She has authored three books and is currently working on a manuscript, Terror, Images and Traumatic Augmentation, a study of the circulation and reception of images from the advent of photography through the digital era. Lieberman s teaching focuses on issues of gender, ethnicity and identity in contemporary American visual culture with particular emphases on the role of visual technologies and the ideation of illness and death.
Fred Ritchin is Dean of the School at ICP (International Center of Photography) Ritchin was the founding director of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism Program at the School of ICP and was appointed Dean in 2014. Prior to joining ICP, Fred Ritchin was professor of Photography and Imaging at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and co-director of the NYU/Magnum Foundation Photography and Human Rights educational program. Previously the picture editor of the New York Times Magazine (1978–82), executive editor of Camera Arts magazine (1982–83), and founding director of the Photojournalism and Documentary Photography Program at the International Center of Photography (1983–86), Ritchin has written and lectured internationally about the challenges and possibilities implicit in the digital revolution. Ritchin is a prolific author and curator, focusing on digital media and the rapid changes occurring in photography. He wrote the first book on the impact of digital imaging on photography, In Our Own Image: The Coming Revolution in Photography (Aperture, 1990, 1999, 2010), which was followed by two more books on the future of imaging in the digital era, After Photography (W.W. Norton, 2008), and Bending the Frame: Photojournalism, Documentary, and the Citizen (Aperture, 2013) Ritchin co-founded PixelPress in 1999, serving as director of an organization that has created multimedia documentary and photojournalism projects online, and collaborated with humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF, WHO, UNFPA, Crimes of War, and the Rwanda Project.
Mike Attie’s award-winning short documentaries have shown at major documentary festivals including San Francisco International, SilverDocs, and Cinequest. Prior to receiving his MFA from Stanford University’s Documentary Film program, Attie worked as a production assistant and assistant editor for Academy Award-winning filmmakers Alan and Susan Raymond on films for HBO and PBS. Attie’s film, FAMOUS 4A was nominated for the International Documentary Association’s David Wolper Award and won 1st Jury Prize for short films at the Kos International Film Festival and CILECT’s Documentary Film Prize. Attie received a BA in American History from Vassar College. Attie is a lecturer in the Department of Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University, and the associate director of the department’s new MFA Program in Documentary Media. He is a 2014 Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow and was named one of The Independent’s “10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014.”
Meghan O’Hara is a San Francisco-based filmmaker whose short films have received recognition from major film festivals in the United States and abroad, including the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Mill Valley Film Festival, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, and Slamdance. She is a 2014 Sundance Documentary Film Program Fellow, recipient of an Eastman/Kodak award for Excellence in Cinematography, and was named one of The Independent’s “10 Filmmakers to Watch in 2014.” O’Hara holds a MFA in Documentary Production from Stanford University and a BA in experimental film and video from Hampshire College. She is an Adjunct Professor of Film and Design at California College of the Arts.