Author(s): An-My Le
An-My Les first publication, Small Wars, brought together three bodies of black-and-white work (Vietnam, Small Wars, and 29 Palms), offering a trilogy of tautly rendered examinations of the spectacle of war, memory, and landscape. With Events Ashore, Le continues her exploration of the American military, a pursuit both personal and civic. With this body of work, however, Le emerges as a master colorist, employing the large-format color negative to powerful effect to capture the sometimes surreal, often surprisingly beautiful vistas of the military at work, with an emphasis on descriptive and compositional precision and subtlety of palette. Events Ashore began when the artist was invited to photograph U.S. naval ships preparing for deployment to Iraq, the first in a series of visits to battleships, humanitarian missions in Africa and Asia, training exercises, and scientific missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. As Le explains, these trips allowed her to study close at hand the militarys non-combat activities, becoming a launching point for an examination of the U.S. military on the global stage across oceans and borders as a symbol of conflict, an echo of the age of exploration, and an unlikely (and unsung) force in the unfolding environmental crisis. ..This work is as much about my perspective, and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam, as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes.
The speed, action and sense of peril common to news photographs of conflict are largely absent from her pictures. instead, readers get the impression of a massive force lumbering deliberatley across the globe, from Australia to Panama, Antarctica, Greenland and elsewhere.In Le's beautiful portraits, officers and other personnel appear placid, stoic, almost bored-another day at the office, keeping watch on a multi-billion-dollar aircraft carrier as it ambles through the Arabian Gulf.--Conor Risch"PDN" (12/01/2014)