Can an army make war on a concept? Tyler Hicks’ photography exhibit Histories Are Mirrors: The Path of Conflict Through Afghanistan and Iraq, currently on display at Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery, doesn’t offer any answers where the contradictions of the War on Terror are concerned, but his images chronicle the soldiers and civilians who’ve been cast in the almost-decade-long tragedy. Hicks’ vivid photos show markets and massacres, heroes and hostages, every image taking its place in a sweeping drama presided over by a smiling villain: Saddam Hussein.
In Histories Are Mirrors, Hicks, a Pulitzer-winning New York Times staff photographer, documents the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the early years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, through 2004. Many of the wall labels offer only dates and locations, but the exhibit isn’t merely a timeline. Hicks’ best photographs capture the eternal features that crop up in the emotional landscape of wars everywhere: fear, pain, pride, rage, hubris, hope and hopelessness.
In one image, an Afghan soldier dressed in modern camouflage gives orders to his men while wielding what looks like a medieval sword with a curved blade. Afghanistan’s geographic location has made it a region in conflict since antiquity, and Hicks’ photo implies that the country’s young men will be eternal soldiers.
By Joe Nolan – ArtCzar Nashville Correspondent