Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Eleven Blowups by Sophie Ristelhueber

Eleven Blowups is the latest effort by Sophie Ristelhueber. Published by Bookstorming (Paris) it is comprised of eleven images approximately 9.5 x 12, staple bound at one edge to a piece of masonite. It comes in an edition of 120 copies, signed and numbered.

For those of you who have followed Sophie Ristelhuebers’s work over the years, it will come of no surprise that these works are about scarring due to conflict.

Ristelhueber has always shown us the aftermath of war. In Beyruth Photographies (Editions F. Hazan 1984), she took us into Beruit in November of 1982 to look upon the destroyed city. After the first Gulf war, she flew over the battlefields in a helicopter photographing the destroyed bunkers and pockmarked landscape from the weeks of the carpet bombing. Occasionally she would drop to the earth’s surface (looking at that point more like the moon’s surface) to reveal some alien metal objects that have been left behind. She photographed post-surgical scars on human flesh during the Balkan wars. In West Bank (Thames and Hudson 2005), she photographed impassable road blocks throughout the Palestinian Territories that disrupt the continuity of the landscape.

For Eleven Blowups, she is again describing the craters made by either American bombs or suicide bombs. Made of digital composites of stills from Reuters video footage shot in Iraq, the culprit of the craters is unnamed. What is clear, is the toll on the landscape and the psyche.

That being said, the images themselves are a bit suspect. Since they are made from composites, they have enough perspective flaws in their making to cause you to step back and question their validity. After the first few readings of the book, I still wasn’t sure if they were “straight” photographs or not. The irony is that even though they may ring false, one knows that much worse devastation could be seen first hand on the ground in Iraq. So I ask, “Is it necessary for them to be truthful in their representation?” And, “Why have I even made this an issue?”

For all of the potential power of Eleven Blowups, the title robs it of that power. The play on words of the photographic “blow up” and explosions is a bit too trite and out of place for the subject matter. For all I care, she could just keep calling the books Fait. That is what they describe. The Aftermath.