An-My Le in conversation with BMA curataor Ann Shafer

It’s the subtleties eventually that become essential. — Jon Cone

Just returned from an artist talk at MICA between An-My Le (pronounced ann-mee lay) and BMA associate curator Ann Shafer.  Le uses a 4 x 5 view “camera to investigate multi-layered ideas about war and the military…with quiet nuance.”  She won the MacArthur Foundation “genus grant” in 2012 and numerous other awards.  The exhibition of about 20 images is currently in the “Front Room” at the BMA (Ms. Shafer noted that although there is construction around the museum, it is open).

The images are all non-combat images, so different from what might be expected from war and military images.  As Ms. Shafer pointed out, the vast majority of military personnel and operations are not directly involved in combat.

There were images from numerous venues including Vietnam, war reenactments, military bases and war ships.  Many of the images shown can be found at An-My Le Small Wars, although not all of the images at this site were hers.

I liked her portraits best. They seemed to convey a “sense” of the subjects. They let me feel like I could connect with the subjects if I ever met them.

I found some of the other images to be too “quietly nuanced” for my untrained eye, although several other images were outstanding. One that Ms. Shafer noted was her favorite showed a wooden lounge chair adjacent to a table with machine gun on what appeared to be the back end of boat looking out to sea.  The combination of the mundane furniture and the machine gun in the unlikely setting was quite striking.  An image of a helicopter at the horizon, coming toward the photographer was also eye-catching and noteworthy for having been taken with a view camera.  I definitely plan to visit the BMA for a closer viewing of Ms. Le’s images.

Ann Shafer will be at the Baltimore Camera club on Thursday, Oct. 17 to talk about the exhibition.  She is very knowledgeable about both Ms. Le. and the substance and content of the photographs. I believe that anyone who attends will have an opportunity to get a better understanding of Ms. Le’s work and intent.

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