Friday, 2 January 2015


At first glance we may feel we have seen enough pictures of misty trees and grubby woodland and silent dykes. But stay, be still, be silent. The artist says what she is doing is “almost the opposite of war photography....instead of the photographer bearing witness, it is the landscape that has witnessed the event and I who am having to go into that landscape in the hope of finding anything tangibly connected to the event. It was almost like having to find a new language or way of seeing." 

These are some of the sites where around 1,000 British, French and Belgian soldiers were executed for cowardice or desertion in WW2.  Chloe Dewe Mathews' series Shot at Dawn is part of Tate Modern’s Conflict Time and Photography exhibition, showing work which reflects journeys around the world since the time photography was invented. But with a difference. The viewer is not drenched with heart-wrenching pictures of death and destruction. Instead Chloe Dewe Mathews's work records stillness and absence: All the action, all the meaning  comes from inside the viewer's head.

By 'telling it slant' the artists allows us to see and feel and approach things afresh. The one constant -  landscape - shocks us into reflecting what  'conflict' and 'bravery' and 'cowardice' used to mean, and what it can mean nowadays.  'Knowing what happened to these run-of-the-mill places turbo-charges their ordinariness into an accusatory roar'.   (Waldemar Januszczak's The Pity of War Distilled, his Guardian/Observer review  of Conflict Time Photography).

(image of single tree)
Private Joseph Byers Time unknown/6.2.1915
Private Andrew Evans Time unknown/6.2.1915
Private George E Collins 07.30/15.2.15 
Six Farm, Loker, West-Vlaanderen

 "For a time, some of these places had an almost macabre fascination," says Dewe Mathews. "One man I met, who was born not long after an execution had happened in a yard on his family's farm in Loker, West Vlaanderen, told me how the event had lingered in the local imagination, and cast a kind of shadow over the land and the family for years afterwards." In this photograph, a solitary tree stands in a misty field where it happened.

(image of woodland in winter)
Soldat Ahmed ben Mohammed el Yadjizy
Soldat Ali ben Ahmed ben Frej ben Khelil
Soldat Hassen ben Ali ben Guerra el Amolani
Soldat Mohammed Ould Mohammed ben Ahmed
Verbranden-Molen, West Vlaanderen

(image of dyke) Private Henry Hughes 05.50/10.4.1918 Klijtebeek stream, Dikkebus, leper, West-Vlaanderen

Chloe Dewe Mathews: Shot at Dawn is commissioned by the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford as part of 14–18 NOW, WW1 Centenary Art Commissions. Her book on the project is:

and an article by Sian O'Haganon on Chloe's past, present and future work: 

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A TICKETED EXHIBITION -I'm breaking my rule about free art.

In this innovative exhibition there is huge variety. A Japanese photographer Toshio Pukada shows us the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima 20 minutes after the explosion of the first nuclear bomb;  Chloe Dewe Mathews’ photographs were taken 99 years after the events. Works are shown according to how long after the event they were created...photographs taken n seven months after the fire bombing of Dresden are shown alongside those taken seven months after the end of the First Gulf War. Images made in Vietnam 25 years after the fall of Saigon are shown alongside those made in Nakasaki 25 years after the atomic bomb.

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