Iraq: The Space Betweenby Christoph Bangert
powerHouse Books, October 2007
118 pages/hardcover/74 color photographs/$35.00
Reviewed by Jain Lemos
Christoph Bangert enters an allegorical hallway in his photographic essay, Iraq: The Space Between. Unable to turn back, he must decide which door to open next. As he anticipates views beyond each new portal, he occupies himself by taking pictures inside the corridor. While languishing in the slipstream, Bangert captures the places where things like socks go when they don’t come out of the dryer.
The Space Between is Bangert’s independent view of Iraq in 2006 and early 2007, where he discovers a journalistic vacuum. When he was first deployed there for The New York Times in 2005, photographers were frustratingly restricted. But by sticking it out, he eventually leaves The Bubble to wander and wonder at large, photographing what others walk by in a blur.
Shown are reactionary gory shots, such as bodies thrown on rubbish heaps, and saturated portraits of miserable and misplaced Iraqi civilians. There are also stagnant photos including a telephone shoved to a corner; a simple boundary barrier taken from below the knees; a dirty shelf of knickknacks. Captions are relegated to back matter so there is no immediate explanation for what is—or is not—happening in each scene.
Interspersed are stylistically mixed images that range from lowlight window grabs and vague snaps of helicopter blades to long shots of waiting soldiers and close-ups of ready weapons. Also depicted is the requisite burka-clad figure in the middle of a road. Bangert’s eye is conscientious but his signature method is still brewing in the developer soup.
The Space Between effectively stirs perceptions about the detested practice of war but the images as standalones are mostly outtakes. When assembled, the mishmash of frames begins to gel with a purpose that forces readers to stay mindful of the real story. That’s a better outcome than relegating this batch of photographs to some soon-to-be-forgotten media storage.