Tuesday, June 22, 2010


There is part of me that doesn't want to share these photos. In a way they are the documentation of a striking violation, but they are so powerful and intriguing that I share them with sensitivity and compassion for their subjects.

As a soldier in the French Army in 1960, Marc Garanger chose to exploit his photographic skills to avoid direct combat, but in ways his military task turned out to be just as direct and disturbing. His assignment was to take portraits for photo cards that were going to be used to identify 2,000 captive Algerian women. Marc's commander ordered that the women be stripped of their face and hair covering veils, their cheichs, so that they could be identified clearly. Demanding that they remove their veils was tantamount to forcing them to commit a grave sin. The veils were signs of honor and fidelity to their God. Taking them off in public, or in front of any man other than their husband, was considered utterly shameful for them. It's as if a foreign soldier asked a western woman to strip naked so that he could snap photos of her. And, with no verbal communication because of a language barrier between the photographer and his subjects, the women were left unaware of why they were being shot.

The unveilings and the subsequent photos elicited tears, defiant glares, and expressions of fear. The set of photos that resulted is now considered a strong testament to the less obvious perils of war, the more psychological torture that can occur when ignorant cultures clash. There is no blood in these photos, no open wounds, but if those faces aren't signs of injury, nothing is.

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