Soldiers’ Stories in Photos on View at Berman Museum

A powerful photography exhibition telling the stories of recent American veterans opened at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College in the Upper Gallery: Jennifer Karady’s In Country: Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan. A talk by the artist and an opening reception are set for Feb. 13.

The opening reception is set for Feb. 13 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Museum, preceded by a talk by Karady at 4 p.m. in Olin Auditorium. The exhibition will run through April 7.

KARADY exhibition

Jennifer Karady portrays Former Satellite Communications Specialist Aaron Grehan, 11th Signal Brigade, U.S. Army, veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, with girlfriend, Neta, and mother, Judy; Peterborough, NH, May 2007.

For the past six years, Jennifer Karady has worked with American veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to create staged narrative photographs that depict their individual stories and address their difficulties in adjusting to civilian life. After extensive interview processes with the veterans and their families, Karady collaborates with each of her subjects to restage a chosen moment from war within the safe space of his or her everyday environment, often surrounded by family and friends.

The collision between or collapse of the soldier’s world and the civilian world evokes the psychology of life after war, and the challenges that adjustment to the home front entails. The process of making the photograph is intended to be helpful for the veteran subject, and is conceptually related to cognitive behavioral therapy.

Each photograph takes approximately a month to produce and involves several extensive interviews (recorded), collaborative conceptualization, location scouting, producing a sketch, discussion/approval from veteran, propping, makeup, costuming, rehearsal of physical action, training local assistants, set construction, casting extras, artificial lighting and the photo shoot. The process of making the photograph culminates in a highly choreographed installation/event. There is no digital manipulation whatsoever in order to ensure the truthfulness of the staged moment and the authenticity of the veteran subject’s participation.

Each large-scale color photograph is accompanied by a recounting of the veteran’s story in his or her own words that has been transcribed and edited from the interviews. So far, Karady has produced 15 photographs in the series with veterans in Nebraska, New Hampshire, upstate New York, New York City, California, Florida and Virginia, and she hopes in the end to complete a series of 25 photographs.

Describing herself as working more like a painter than as a photographer, Karady differs in her practice from other staged narrative photographers in that she collaborates with real people to dramatize their stories through both literal depiction and metaphorical and allegorical means.

Support for the artist’s work on “Soldiers’ Stories from Iraq and Afghanistan” has been provided by SF Camerawork, CEPA Gallery, The Puffin Foundation, The Corporation of Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Blue Mountain Center, The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, the Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, administered by the Brooklyn Arts Council, Inc. and individual donors.  It is a sponsored project of the New York Foundation for the Arts, through their Fiscal Sponsorship Program.

The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art at Ursinus College, known for its diverse collection and its innovative educational programming and outreach, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays and college holidays, including March 30, Easter Sunday. The Museum is a member of the ARTZ/Artists for Alzheimer’s museum network and is accessible to visitors with disabilities. Admission is free. The Museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums. Exhibitions and programs are funded in part by a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

2 thoughts on “Soldiers’ Stories in Photos on View at Berman Museum

  1. What an amazing opportunity for veterans and their families to gain some control over their horrid experiences; and the rest of us to appreciate their inner psychological experiences of war, which must be so difficult to communicate verbally. Thanks to the college for making it possible for the community to learn from these courageous individuals and brilliant and dedicated photographer!

  2. This is not a great opportunity for some of the veterans and their families. These experiences are best left alone. Every time someone brings up the topic it upsets the veterans and their families. Veterans and their families are trying to forget all of these bad experiences.

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