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29 Palms: Colonel Greenwood
Date: 2003-2004
Artist and Related People:
Dimensions: Paper: 26 x 37 1/2 in. (66 x 95.3 cm) Framed: 26 7/8 x 38 3/8 in. (68.3 x 97.5 cm)
Medium: Gelatin silver print
Credit Line: Purchase, with funds from Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz, 2005
Description: Dressed in combat fatigues, with his face obscured by binoculars, this kneeling soldier would appear to be inhabiting the landscape of a country embroiled in warfare. Only the title, 29 Palms: Colonel Greenwood, hints at the real location of the photograph: an expansive military training center, on land in Southern California's Mojave Desert. By photographing the training exercises meant to ensure combat readiness, An-My Lê blurs boundaries between fact and fiction as well as photojournalism and art photography. Lê's series, photographed during the build up to the Gulf War, is not her first documentation of subcultures constructed around imagining and performing warfare. Her earlier work focused on Vietnam War re-enactors in Virginia and North Carolina, who went to great lengths to make their staged battles as historically accurate as possible. Though distinguished from one another by the purpose and locations of the war exercises, the series are conceptually similar in their study of the relationship between technology and the geography of warfare. This is especially true in 29 Palms: Colonel Greenwood. Instead of looking out onto the desert using only his natural vision, the soldier uses binoculars in order to gain additional knowledge about his surroundings, and presumably gain an advantage in combat. Technology, in this instance, has replaced unaided eyesight; indeed, the viewer does not even see the soldier's eyes. Only his goggles and binoculars are visible: two essential tools necessary in gaining the upper hand over an enemy and one's environment.
Accession Number: 2373.2005