The global award in photography and sustainability

An-My Lê

29 Palms

In March 2003, when the United States invaded Iraq, I felt compelled to go there. Unable to become an embed, I made my way to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms, California. Tucked in the high desert, the training centre’s landscape is not dissimilar from parts of Afghanistan and Iraq. I embarked on the process of documenting the intricate live fire manoeuvres the troops underwent prior to their deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. Taken with a large-format view camera, my black-and-white photographs have more to do with 19th-century war photography – Roger Fenton’s troops camped in Crimea, Mathew Brady’s dead soldiers on the Civil War battlefield – than with the quick drawing spontaneous images of combat we are bombarded with nowadays. My engagement of the landscape and its scale is an attempt to give perspective to the military endeavour. A cool and distant look at the dramatic exercises far from the heat of the battle allows us to step back and consider the implications and consequences of war. This project implores us to contemplate the larger questions raised by war.

An-My Lê