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May 18, 2012

“Doc Kelso Sleeping” by Tim Hetherington, Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, June 2008. From the “Sleeping Soldiers” series. © Tim Hetherington/Magnum Photos

Magnum Photos: “Doc Kelso Sleeping” by Tim Hetherington, from the Sleeping Soldiers series Afghanistan, Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, June 2008. Image reference: NYC116923. © Tim Hetherington / Magnum Photos

About a year ago, we learned the death of British-American photojournalist Tim Hetherington, killed in action by mortar shells while he was covering the 2011 Lybian civil war. Like many others, I mostly knew about Hetherington work because of his award-wining documentary Restrepo (2010).
In remembrance of of his life and work, the festival CONTACT ―an annual festival of photography held in Toronto― had the good idea to present the Sleeping Soldiers series not in a single gallery, but on giant billboards in six different cities all across Canada from April 30 to June 3, 2012. The initiative is supported by Pattison Outdoor Advertising and Nikon Canada. Persilia Caton and Bonnie Rubenstein are the curator in charge of it. From the CONTACT festival website:

Hetherington’s tightly-framed portraits convey an intimacy not typically associated with representations of the military. In contrast to the tendency to see modern day warriors as dehumanized, he depicts them shirtless and vulnerable (albeit secure enough to sleep soundly) to expose in public the private act of being asleep. These photographs take no political position on the war in Afghanistan; instead, Hetherington’s images tell a timeless story about the lives of men in war zones. (read more)

The story doesn’t end there. In Montreal, there’s one instance where the installation provoked an interesting meeting between two photographs. Unbeknown to the organizers (in all likelihood) Tim Hetherington’s photo depicted above was installed on a billboard mounted on an old warehouse that was itself photographed many years before by Canadian photographer Gabor Szilasi (click images for hi-res).

“Intersection of Saint-Lawrence Boulevard and Van Horne Avenue, Montreal”, summer 1980, printed in 1980–1982, gelatin silver print, Library and Archives Canada (© Gabor Szilasi)
“Intersection of Saint-Lawrence Boulevard and Van Horne Avenue, Montreal”, summer 1980, printed in 1980–1982, gelatin silver print, Library and Archives Canada (© Gabor Szilasi)
A photo from Tim Hetherington series “Sleeping Soldiers” is displayed on a billboard mounted on an old warehouse photographed many years before by Canadian photographer Gabor Szilasi.
Corner of Van Horn and Saint-Laurent in Montreal, May 2012. Photo: Aphelis (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

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