Iraq Perspective I, Benjamin Lowy
Iraq Perspectives I, © Benjamin Lowy, VII Network

The cooperative VII Photo Agency, which will be seven year old this year, announced this week that “VII Network” will be representing seven non-member photographer. (via PDNonline ) The VII Network photographers are: Eric Bouvet, Jessica Dimmock, Tivadar Domaniczky, Balazs Gardi, Benjamin Lowy, Stephanie Sinclair, and Donald Weber. Bios and featured stories are presented in the VII Network section of the VII site.

What’s interesting about this group, besides that they are strong photographers? The stories presented on the site represent a broad approach to photojournalism, mirroring the diversity of styles represented by the member photographers. But it’s not just mirroring; most of the photographers in this group began their careers around the same time that VII was formed on September 9, 2001.

The influence of the member photographers is evident and while these seven were certainly chosen for being compatible with the agency, I also can’t help feeling how strongly the members have shaped the way that we think about what is good photojournalism, and what is possible. At the same time, it’s hard to make any generalizations about this diverse group.

The relationship between being a self-consciously subjective reporter and the mechanics of style that broadcast subjectivity are rearticulated by the younger group in different ways. Hungarian photographer Balazs Gardi’s striking Afghanistan ‘scapes are anchored in an Eastern European formal tradition but also specifically reminiscent of the work of Hungarian-American photographer Sylvia Plachy in a completely different context.

Jessica Dimmock, whose project The Ninth Floor has deservedly received a lot of attention follows in the footsteps of member Eugene Richards . This observation is not to devalue Dimmock’s work, but to recognize the relationship between hers and Richards’ works, and Richards’ powerful influence, himself influenced by Bill Eppridge and Larry Clark.

Benjamin Lowy’s work I find especially rich: his Iraq reportage goes in and out of entertwined daily life and combat, but he has two groups, “Iraq Perspectives I and II” which suggest a new kind of subjective photojournalism. One group is pictures made through the window of a humvee , the other through night vision goggles .

Last week I noted that Phil Nesmith’s tintypes of pictures he shot in Iraq mixed genres and made a statement by quoting from the vocabulary of war imagery. Lowy’s two groups are creating a new vocabulary of war imagery. Photographers have seen pictures through windows for a long time, and we recognize night vision when we see it. But Lowy’s window pictures are strong because they work as a group to convey the distance through the glass, the sense of being on one side of it, and of the heat and air on the other side, and especially to show what a fractured view one gets of an unintelligible landscape from inside a humvee.

Lowy writes, “This view of the Iraqi street is one so rarely seen by the American public, but it is the most common sight for U.S. soldiers. Do these soldiers see the Iraqis as they speed by? I’m not sure.”  Similarly the night vision pictures shimmer with electricity and confusion, and a sense of helplessness and inevitability that has become difficult to convey in the increasingly codified pictures of violence and its aftermath. And so continuity gives rise to innovation.