Critical Mass Top 50, 2009

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Benjamin Lowy

www.benlowy.com


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Benjamin Lowy

Iraq Perspectives I began this project as a response to what I felt was the general inability of people back home to comprehend the desperation inside war-torn Iraq. Most people have never seen or felt war. Confronted by a level of violence so high that walking on the streets to photograph was tantamount to suicidal behavior, I found myself confined to working with American soldiers. I spent most of my time going on missions while looking at the landscape of this broken country through the inches-thick bulletproof windows of a Humvee. Do Iraqis see me through these windows? I don’t know. But they do see the monstrous convoys of Humvees coming down the roads of their neighborhoods. Some stop to stare, some jeer, some cheer (rare), some just go about their business, oblivious to the tons of destructive force driving by. This view of the Iraqi street, so rarely seen by the American public, is the most common sight for U.S. soldiers. Do these soldiers really SEE the Iraqis as they speed by? I’m not sure. The goal of this project is to provoke the viewer to continue to ask such questions and more. I hope that glimpses of the Iraqis’ daily lives, so routine and mundane, so similar to ours in the West, will evoke not only empathy but kinship. The decision to include the actual window in the images serves a literal as well as a metaphorical purpose. I wanted to create a visual technique to present Iraq to the public that is different from the usual images they have been inundated with and incite interest and curiosity. These windows represent a barrier that impedes dialogue. What you see are fragments of Iraqi life taken by a transient passenger in a Humvee. This then is Iraq: blast walls, barbed wires, poverty, destruction, and, within the bleak reality, something familiar to all of us in the importance of family and friends and the longing for normalcy.