Relevance to my work
I originally saw Chloe Matthews Shot at Dawn in 2015 so when I was planning assignment 1 series 2 I returned to Shot at Dawn (and also Paul Seawright’s Hidden) for inspiration when trying to create a sense of something that was missing or had happened.
Commissioned as part of the commemorations of the centenary of WWI Chloe Matthews visited sites where British, New Zealand, French and Belgian troops were executed for cowardice and desertion between 1914-1918.
In accordance with the protocol of the day these men were executed at dawn and Matthews revisited and photographed the execution sites, again at the break of dawn. What became understood in years to come was that the mental health of these young men was severely damaged and affected by the brutal trench warfare and some Governments, such as Britain and New Zealand, have since granted posthumous pardons to all victims of this tragic situation.
The series of images are deeply sombre and seem to invite the viewer to re-evaluate the judgement of the soldiers’ original shameful crimes whilst reflecting on their unnecessary and deeply unfair deaths and the impact that this would have had on their families.
Matthews’ work has clear similarities with Paul Seawright’s work Hidden and Joel Meyerowitz archive of the Aftermath of 9/11. David Campany’s essay safety in numbness (2003) argues that this late photography can create a sense of ‘indifference’. I would prefer to regard such images as an appropriate response allowing the viewer to reflect more deeply and consider their own personal response. And in doing so appropriately avoiding the creation of a spectacle to be exploited.
I believe late photography creates a physical and cognitive space between the past and the present which allows and almost forces the viewer to take responsibility to reflect upon and evaluate their own response which I consider to be a deeper emotional process and one which I both intriguing and challenging.
Chloe Matthews, Shot at dawn can be seen at http://shotatdawn.photography/work/
Campany, D safety in numbness essay (2003) can be read at
http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/ (accessed 04/03/2016)
Joel Meyerowitz Aftermath can be seen at http://www.joelmeyerowitz.com/photography/book_aftermath.asp (accessed 04/03/2016)
Paul Seawright Hidden can be seen at http://www.paulseawright.com/hidden/