Ghosts in the Landscape: Vietnam Revisited

Piece from Ghosts in the Landscape: Vietnam Revisited

Ghosts in the Landscape: Vietnam Revisited

Thomas J. Walsh Gallery

March 26-June 6, 2015

Over a four-year period beginning in 1995, photographer Craig J. Barber, ex-combat Marine, returned to Vietnam to traverse many of his former military routes, making images with an 8x10-inch pinhole camera. In part a cathartic exercise, and a need to satisfy his curiosity about what had become of this once war-torn country, Barber created a series of 46 diptych and triptych panorama platinum images that capture the serene beauty of the country and, at times for him, the all-too-memorable landscapes. The tonality of the platinum process produces images with stunningly rich blacks and a full spectrum of delicately nuanced shades of gray.

The images Barber has captured are not documentary images. The minutes-long exposure required to record pinhole images produce blurring in anything that was in motion during the exposure. This sense of movement contributes to both a sense of mystery and a dreamlike, introspective quality. One critic wrote: "The blur in the images, here seen in diptychs or triptychs as when the soldier Barber was looking to left and right -- for a movement, a muzzle flash -- now takes on a new meaning in the civilian Barber's eyes...[and] completely capture the haunting power of wartime memory and trauma." Yet these images do convey beauty and peace. As we take note this spring of the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon and the end of the Vietnam War, the audience may find comfort, as does Craig Barber, in seeing Vietnam in a different light.