Image for Photographer Lori Grinker Documents Life “Afterwar”

Photographer Lori Grinker Documents Life “Afterwar”

Blog Category:  Library and Research Center

The next time you visit NMWA, come to the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center to see new books on women in the arts, as well as reference books, artists’ books, and more.

The cover of the book 'Afterwar' featuring a hairy, light-skinned body floating face-up in a bright blue pool. Only the person's left arm, stomach, blue Speedo, and left leg are visible—the leg is missing from halfway down the shin down.
Cover image of Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict by Lori Grinker

Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict by Lori Grinker (de.MO Design Limited, 2004)

On November 11, many nations around the world will observe Armistice Day, or Veterans Day, a holiday first created in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I—known in its day as “the war to end all wars.”

As Veterans Day approaches, 97 years since its first observance, it is sobering to reflect on the many conflicts that continue around the world. Photographer Lori Grinker employs portrait photography and first-person testimony to chronicle the lasting traumas experienced by male and female soldiers in her poignant book Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict.

Grinker highlights veterans from both sides of wars in the 20th and 21st centuries, spanning more than 30 countries and five continents. Within 23 sections—one section for each conflict—Grinker assembles her subjects in an ideologically-alternating arrangement. In a chapter on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only one page separates the portrait of a Intifada fighter from that of an Israel Defense Forces veteran. The effect is startling and powerful. Ideologies become irrelevant. Grinker, who received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, manages to evoke something different and unique with each portrait, capturing post-war trauma in many enigmatic iterations.

On the left, a photo of a slender, medium-skin toned adult man slumped in a wheelchair on a nearly empty concrete plaza. On the right, a medium-light skinned adult person's face being cradled by a light-skinned hand; the face is mottled and scarred.
Arafat Jacoub, Intifada (Palestine), participated 1989–1990 (left) and Yossi Arditi, Israeli Defense Army, served 1971–1988 (right); All photos: Lori Grinker

Grinker writes that her works “originate from the personal but…speak to our commonalities.” She says, “ultimately, my work is about the ephemeral transcendence of everyday experience.” Perhaps the real power of this book is its suggestion that human beings have more that unites than divides them. Viewed in this way, Grinker’s powerful and elegiac perspective elevates Afterwar from journalistic account to artistic testimony.

A light-skinned adult with short brown hair and glasses wears a green U.S. Army jacket decorated with patches, and holds a framed, decorated, black-and-white portrait of a nurse who served in the military. The person stands beside a road and another light-skinned older adult hugs them from behind.
Penny Kettlewell, U.S. Army (Vietnam conflict), served 1966–1971; Photo: Lori Grinker

All are welcome to view this book in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. If you’re touring the museum’s exhibitions, the library is open to the public and makes a great starting point on the fourth floor. In addition to beautiful books and comfortable chairs, library visitors enjoy interesting exhibitions that feature archival manuscripts, personal papers by women artists, rare books, and artists’ books. Reference Desk staff members are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. Open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

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