American wars, images from the ground
September 24th, 2012
Omaha, NE – A new exhibit at the Durham Museum explores the humanity and everyday lives of American soldiers.
â€œItâ€™s about the humanity of the soldiers, about the humor, the camaraderie,â€ explained Cyma Rubin, curator of The American Soldier: A Photographic Tribute, as she walked through the halls of photographs installed at the Durham, many of them blown up to poster-size.
A curator and documentarian, Rubin began her career in the arts, directing award-winning Broadway productions and films, and her eye for artistry and human emotion is powerfully on display in this exhibit.
â€œThis is not about blood and guts,â€ Rubin said. â€œItâ€™s about soldieringâ€¦ and to be able at some point to step into the photograph emotionally and intellectually so that you can experience what the photograph is showing.â€
For four years, Rubin sifted through over 4,000 images of American soldiers spanning generations from the Civil War to Iraq. In 2007, when the exhibit first opened in Louisiana, sheâ€™d whittled it down to 116 of the most poignant images.
One shows an American family during the Civil War with two children standing next to their father in uniform. Rubin told the story of one young viewer in South Carolina who kept returning to the image. â€œHe was staring again at the photograph,â€ she said. â€œSo I asked him, â€˜Is there something else I can help you with?â€™ And he said, â€˜Well I know now how that little boy felt when his daddy went to war because my daddyâ€™s in Iraq.â€™â€
â€œHe had now an experience which said to him heâ€™s not alone,â€ she said, â€œthat this happened a long time ago.â€
Walking through the exhibit, Rubin had similar stories for many of the images, which each held intimate moments of human emotion â€“ some repeated across generations, some lighthearted, others raw.
Pointing to a black-and-white photograph of one soldier holding another, his face contorted in pain, in Korea, Rubin said â€œThis is the aftermath of what would have been blood and guts.â€
â€œHis buddy was killed,â€ she said. â€œAnd this is another buddy holding on to him, supporting him as he weeps.â€
â€œThatâ€™s important,â€ she said. â€œNot to see the kill, but to see what happened afterwards to the soldiers involved. The camaraderie was very powerful.â€
The American Soldier: A Photographic Tribute is on display at the Durham Museum through January. For more information, and to see more photographs from the exhibit, click here.
Comments are closed.