CHRIS FREMANTLE

What art have I seen? Mark Neville

Posted in Exhibitions by chrisfremantle on August 19, 2014

There is a sequence of film in black and white with no sound where we simply, through the use of a camera mounted on the side of a vehicle moving through a settlement, see what the soldiers see – kids making finger guns to shoot at them, a woman smiling, men studiously ignoring the passing vehicle. We see lots and lots of stands selling vegetables (even in b&w the eggplants stand out shiny and dark). Some people are caught really close up as they pull their scooters over to let the vehicles pass. The normality of the scene is constantly challenged by the shadow of the 50 cal machine gun mounted on the top of the vehicle tracking over everything.
The artist and photographer Mark Neville spent time in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, with 16 Air Assault Brigade in a project organised by firstsite in Colchester and the Imperial War Museum. This exhibition at the Imperial War Museum comprises large format photographs and films he made whilst there.
Mark uses a very high speed film camera, usually used for documenting science experiments, which means that even from a moving vehicle the image is really clear.
The still photographs also exhibited involved taking a large format camera and flash unit normally used in fashion shoots out on patrol (I can’t quite imagine how this worked, but I believe it knowing Mark’s commitment to his process). Kids, a man slaughtering a goat, nothing that looks like a patrol in a war zone (a soldier carrying a case of Irn bru) except what you see in peoples’ eyes – suspicion and uncertainty.

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