Taking Aim

‘War/Photography’ Brilliantly Showcases Images of Conflict and Its Aftermath

A traveling exhibit and its accompanying catalog vividly display scenes of war and the often catastrophic results when the smoke cleared.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Will Michels in honor of his sister, Genevieve Namerow

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Michael Poulos in honor of Mary Kay Poulos at “One Great Night in November, 1997.” © Russian Photo Association, Razumberg Emil Anasovich

Practically since the invention of photography more than a century and a half ago, photographers have been hurrying off to the battlefield to capture images of war and its awful aftermath (due to the camera’s early limitations, aftermath was the principal subject initially, but scenes from the Crimean War and the American Civil War nevertheless hit initial viewers like a thunderbolt). “WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath,” a traveling exhibition organized by Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts and currently showing at the Brooklyn Museum (there is also a published catalog brilliantly showcases the work of artists under fire and under the imperative to honestly portray life and death in war zones over time and around the globe. Here, a photo by Dmitri Baltermants (Russian, born Poland, 1912–1990). Attack—Eastern Front WWII, 1941 (printed 1960). Gelatin silver print, 8⅞ x11¾ in. (22.6 x 29.8 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of David and Cindy Bishop Donnelly, John Gaston, Mary and George Hawkins, and Mary and Jim Henderson in memory of Beth Block. © Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos

Peter van Agtmael (American, born 1981)

Darien, Wisconsin, October 22, 2007 (printed 2009). Chromogenic print, ed. # 1/10, 9 x 12 in. (22.9 x 30.5 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum purchase. © Associated Press

Henri Huet (French, 1927–1971)

The body of an American paratrooper killed in action in the jungle near the Cambodian border is raised up to an evacuation helicopter, Vietnam, 1966 (printed 2004). Gelatin silver print, 13⅜ x 8⅝ in. (34 x 22.4 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Will Michels in honor of his sister, Genevieve Namerow

Alfred Palmer (American, 1906-1993)

Women aircraft workers finishing transparent bomber noses for fighter and reconnaissance planes at Douglas Aircraft Co. Plant in Long Beach, California, 1942. Gelatin silver print, 7⅝ x 9⅝ in. (19.4 x 24.3 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation. © The Imperial War Museums

Cecil Beaton (English, 1904–1980)

A Royal Navy sailor on board HMS Alcantara uses a portable sewing machine to repair a signal flag during a voyage to Sierra Leone, March 1942 (printed 2012). Gelatin silver print, 8 x 8 in. (20.3 x 20.3 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Marion Mundy. © Arkady Shaikhet Estate, Moscow

Arkady Shaikhet (Russian, 1898–1959)

Partisan Girl, 1942. Gelatin silver print, 11 x 7⅝ in. (27.9 x 19.4 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; museum purchase with funds provided by Photo Forum 2006. © Susan Meiselas/Magnum Photos

Susan Meiselas (American, born 1948)

Muchachos Await Counter Attack by the National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, 1978 (printed 2006). Chromogenic print, 12⅝ x 19⅜ in. (32.5 x 49.1 cm).

Courtesy of the artist. © Jan Grarup/Laif

Jan Grarup (Danish, born 1968)

Young Fatah Members at the Funeral Procession of a Palestinian Fighter, from the series The Scars of David, 2002. Inkjet print, ed. # 4/10, 19¾ x 26⅛ in. (50.2 x 66.4 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Will Michels in honor of Anne Wilkes Tucker. © Estate of W. Eugene Smith/Black Star

W. Eugene Smith (American, 1918–1978)

Dying Infant Found by American Soldiers in Saipan, June 1944. Gelatin silver print, 9¼ x 7⅛ in. (23.5 x 18.2 cm).

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of William Broyles © ITAR-TASS

Max Alpert (Russian, 1899–1980)

Battalion Commander, no date. Gelatin silver print, 8½ x 11½ in. (21.6 x 29.2 cm).

Courtesy of ClampArt, New York City. © Rachel Papo

Rachel Papo (Israeli/American, born 1970)

Military kiosk counter, Shaare Avraham, Israel, from the series Serial No. 3817131, 2004. Chromogenic print, 30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm).

he Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; gift of Joan Morgenstern. © Marc Riboud/Magnum Photos

Marc Riboud (French, born 1923)

Washington, October 21, 1967 (printed later). Gelatin silver print, 9½ x 14⅛in. (24.1 x 35.9 cm).