Marking Iraq

This year marks ten years since the start of the Iraq War in 2003, and to signal the anniversary, Manchester’s Imperial War Museum North is opening an exhibition of photography around the conflict this week.

An Iraqi woman caught up in fighting between insurgents and Coalition troops, Ubaydi, 2005
An Iraqi woman caught up in fighting between insurgents and Coalition troops, Ubaydi, 2005

The show presents images captured by British war photographer Sean Smith for The Guardian newspaper.

As well as Smith’s more recognisable images, the display will also feature previously unpublished photographs, with the exhibition spanning the interior and exterior of the gallery space.

Around 30 photographs will be displayed in IWM North’s WaterWay Gallery, accompanied by an outdoor exhibition of large-scale 5m high framed images outside the museum.

Residents of Ubaydi flee their homes, as US Marines occupy their town, 2005
Residents of Ubaydi flee their homes, as US Marines occupy their town, 2005

Alongside images shot during the war, the show looks to contextualise the conflict by demonstrating the effects it had on normal Iraqi people’s lives both before and after the event.

Smith, who has documented the war in Iraq for The Guardian newspaper since 2003, was first sent to the area just three months before the war began on the evening of 19 March 2003.

 US Marines taking detainees in for questioning. Suspected insurgents were captured during Operation ‘Steel Curtain’, which aimed to break insurgent cells located on the Syrian border.
US Marines taking detainees in for questioning. Suspected insurgents were captured during Operation ‘Steel Curtain’, which aimed to break insurgent cells located on the Syrian border.

It’s a revealing insight to see people going about their lives – attending parties and weddings, getting on with quotidian tasks – all the while knowing that war was imminent.

A child recovers a pet rabbit from his bombed neighbourhood, Baghdad, 2003.
A child recovers a pet rabbit from his bombed neighbourhood, Baghdad, 2003.

The images tell stories of the co-existence of civilian and military communities, forced to live with one another with – as we see – sometimes poignant, sometimes deeply troubling consequences.

The anniversary will also be marked at IWM London from October 2013, exploring the cost and complexities of modern conflictthrough photographic exhibitions by British photojournalist Mike Moore and Lee Craker, a United States Command Photographer in Iraq 2008 – 2011.

Iraq: Photographs by Sean Smith runs from 9 March  until 2014 at IWM North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17

All images courtesy of  Guardian News & Media and Sean Smith

Imperial War Museum North
Imperial War Museum North

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