vrijdag 6 november 2009

Occupation Soldier Fighters and Peacemakers in Afghanistan Ad van Denderen Documentary Photography

Occupation: Soldier
Since the end of the Cold War in 1990 and the expected conclusion of the Uruzgan mission in 2010, almost 90,000 Dutch soldiers have been involved in peacekeeping operations.

What do we remember of them, what remains in our collective visual memory? Precious little. Peacekeeping does not produce spectacular images. Except when it goes wrong. The fall of Srebrenica is an open wound in Dutch (military) history.

Even so, every day young men and women do their often dangerous duty. Drawn by the adventure, out of a need for camaraderie and sometimes also out of idealism and a sense of responsibility. In total, around 40 of them have lost their lives, more than half in Afghanistan.

As part of their annual photo commission, Document Nederland, the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad newspaper asked photographer Ad van Denderen to give this history a face. Van Denderen followed the recruits during their training in The Netherlands and on their missions in Chad and Uruzgan: hard working, operating with caution; a frequently unglamorous existence. He also turned his lens towards family members. He captured the Christmas and New Year’s greetings being recorded in a television studio and visited the homes of families whose sons will never return – the target of insurgents as a result of their occupation.

‘Wars are begun because the lust for war exists,’ writes Arnon Grunberg. His polemic examination of the notion of civilisation forms the introduction to Occupation: Soldier. Grunberg visited ISAF, NATO’s peacekeeping and reconstruction force in Afghanistan, in 2006 and 2007.

Ad van Denderen
Ad van Denderen (1943, The Netherlands) has worked as a photographer for Vrij Nederland, Stern, NRC Handelsblad, GEO and The Independent magazine, among others.

He has received a number of prestigious prizes for his work, including the Visa d’Or at the international photo festival Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan in 2001 and The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts’ (Fonds BKVB) oeuvre prize in 2007/2008.

Go No Go, his book on migration in Europe, based on 13 years of work, was published by Actes Sud, Mets & Schilt, Lunwerg Editores, Edition Braus and Paradox in 2003. For the 2008 SteidlMack/Paradox publication So Blue So Blue, Van Denderen photographed the 17 countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Earlier publications include Peace in The Holy Land, a book about Palestine (1997) and Welkom in Suid-Afrika, about apartheid (1991).

His work has been widely exhibited in (international) group and solo exhibitions. Go No Go was shown at FOAM and Imagine IC (Amsterdam), the Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna, Austria), La Criée (Rennes, France) and other venues. The project was developed by filmmaker Bors Gerrets into an audiovisual piece on DVD for Paradox. The film premiered at a special migration meeting of the European Parliament in 2004. So Blue So Blue opened in the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam (NL) in 2008 before going on to the Fotomuseum Winterthur (CH) in the spring of 2009.

In 2008, Van Denderen was invited by the Rijksmuseum and NRC Handelsblad to work on Document Nederland, an annual commission dealing with contemporary Dutch history, which that year focused on the Dutch armed forces. This resulted in the exhibition Fighters and Peacemakers in the Fotomuseum Den Haag in 2009/2010 and the book Occupation Soldier (NRC Books/Paradox, 2009).

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