"These pictures were originally intended as a sort of 'Fuck you' to the Bush administration, I never thought after he was gone we would eventually end up with someone that made him look good. They're a 'Fuck you' to someone else now." - Sean Hemmerle
The portrait series THEM is a reaction to the political atmosphere in the United States post 9/11. After having documented the events of 9/11, Hemmerle felt compelled to depict something of value and decided to photograph the minefields, battlefields and surrounding architecture in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2002 and 2003. Eventually he started taking black-and-white portraits of the people he encountered. THEM shows depictions of the citizens of these two war-torn countries in the Middle East. These sensitive portraits of individuals stand in stark contrast to the concept of a universally identifiable enemy formed by the people in the United States. The resulting images are compassionate studies of people under attack by Hemmerles own government. Each subject is portrayed frontally with no direction from the artist, allowing the individual photographed to (re)present themselves. Echoing the display modalities of August Sander's iconic portrait series People of the 20th Century, Sean Hemmerle's corpus of black-and-white portraits possesses visual power.
Sean Hemmerles award-winning photographs range from international conflict zones to contemporary architecture. After serving in the U.S. Army (1984-1988), he attended the University of Miami and later earned his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1997. He quickly established his reputation as a sought-after architectural and urban landscape photographer. Since 9/11 has turned his eye toward documenting the effects of war in New York, Afghanistan and Iraq.
The book THEM is published by Kehrer Verlag, priced €39.90 and is also available at Galerie Julian Sander during the upcoming exhibition.