Imageandpeace is delighted to present the photographic essay “Between Violence and Peace” by Shihab Chowdhury. The artwork – eleven photographs and explanatory text – engages with a subject – the Finnish Civil War – that is still capable of dividing opinion in Finland more than 100 years after it took place.
Shihab’s work qualifies as aftermath photography but it is based on a temporally extended understanding of the aftermath – and it is precisely this extended understanding which opens new photographic possibilities for the representation of peace.
Aftermath photography often shows that, while physical violence is over, peace has not yet been achieved. It engages with the legacies of violent conflict including traumatic memories, acknowledging that the end of physical violence does not automatically result in closure and peace for people formerly affected by violence.
However, such photography frequently gets stuck in the aftermath without visualizing, or visually anticipating, a path to peace. As we noted in our commentary on Imagine – Reflections on Peace, aftermath photography does not always appreciate the aftermath as an event in its own right but understands it as an “ephemeral space between wars, a pause, both an aftermath to war and prelude to yet another war” (Gary Knight), as something that cannot really be trusted.
In contrast, Shihab’s new work, by documenting social interactions in the People’s House in Nummela, Finland, shows, in the artist’s words, “regained trust and acceptability among civilians.” It also reveals the importance of the built environment when being used constructively to bring people together rather than separating them from one another. And it is a visual meditation on the crucial importance of time in peace building, confirming Robin Wright’s assessment that “peacemaking is not a sprint. It is more of a marathon.”
Shihab Chowdhury is a Bangladesh-born documentary photographer and filmmaker, currently residing in Finland.
You can find more information about the artist on his personal webpage: