Eye Level in Iraq: Photographs by Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson

Jan 10, 2013

Man holding painting and watching a crowd pray.

Thorne Anderson, Thawra, Baghdad, Iraq, April 18, 2003. Digital inkjet print. High Museum of Art, Atlanta. © Thorne Anderson

SAN FRANCISCO (January 10, 2013)—Eye Level in Iraq: Photographs by Kael Alford and Thorne Anderson presents the photographs of two American-trained photojournalists, Kael Alford (American, b. 1971) and Thorne Anderson (American, b. 1966), who documented the profound impact and aftermath of the US-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. Alford and Anderson created this body of work during a two-year span that began in the months leading up to the invasion and continued into the period when armed militias emerged to challenge the coalition forces and later the new central Iraqi government. This exhibition will be on view in Gallery 12 at the de Young Museum in San Francisco from February 9–June 16, 2013.

In an attempt to get closer to the daily realities of Iraqi citizens, the photographers worked outside the confines of the US military’s embedded journalist program. Though this shift in physical perspective placed them in great danger, they sought to learn how the war and the seismic political and cultural shifts that accompanied it were affecting ordinary people. Civilians, so often caught in the crossfire of conflict, are the primary subject in the extraordinary photographs of Alford and Anderson. They are approached not from a fixed military perspective, but from a more intimate point of view, one closer to “eye level.”

Baghdad fell to the allied forces on April 9, 2003. A decade later, Thorne Anderson, currently an Assistant Professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas, and Kael Alford, a Visiting Artist and photography teacher at Southern Methodist University, reflect on why this work was made. Alford states: “I consider these photographs invitations to the viewer to learn more, to explore the relationships between public policy objectives and their real-world execution, and to consider the legacies of human grief, anger, mistrust, and dismay that surely follow violent conflict. I hope that these images will also open a window on the grace of Iraq and perhaps help to give a few of these memories a place to rest.”

This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and draws upon 62 digital inkjet prints generously loaned by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Exhibition Catalogue
This exhibition is accompanied by a book, Unembedded: Four Independent Photojournalists on the War in Iraq (2005), published by Chelsea Green Publishing. The volume contains the photographic collaboration of Thorne Anderson and Kael Alford and the work of two other independent photojournalists, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad and Rita Leistner. Combining text and images in an unflinching perspective, Unembedded illustrates the simultaneous brutality and poignancy of war-torn Iraq.

Visiting \ de Young
Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118

Museum Hours
Tuesday–Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm, last ticket 4:30 pm. Friday (March 29–November 29, 2013) 9:30 am–8:45 pm, last ticket 8 pm. Closed Mondays.

$10 adults; $7 seniors (65 and above); $6 students with current ID; $6 youths 13–17. Members and children 12 and under are free. General admission is free the first Tuesday of every month.

Tickets can be purchased on site and online. Tickets purchased online include a $1 handling charge.

Group ticket reservations available by emailing groupsales@famsf.org.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, is the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young is housed in a copper-clad landmark building designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the 17th to the 21st centuries; art from Oceania, Africa, and the Americas; a diverse collection of costumes and textiles; and international contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor’s Beaux-Arts style building designed by George Applegarth is located on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its collections span 4,000 years and include European paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Images from all exhibitions and museums available upon request.