Photographers can remember, yes, but they can also rehabilitate. Recognizing the power of soldiers' snapshots to not just tell about, but also understand the impact war has led Monica Haller into a promising new creative enterprise.
The Guggenheim Foundation honored her as a Creative Fellow in 2010, based on her simple-yet-complex notion: that pictures can be taken quickly, but need to be comprehended over time, and with collaborators. She an dan old college friend, Riley Sharbonno, who'd been an Army medic in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, met over several years. He told stories about pictures he couldn't even recall taking - some were nondescript travel shots (although with a gun barrel in the foreground), while others were grotesque documents of desperate surgeries from war wounds.
Together with MCAD graphic design alumnus Matt Rezac, Haller and Sharbonno produced Riley and His Story, which looks exactly like a hard-bound book but proclaims "This is not a book. This is an invitation, a container for unstable images, a model for further actions..." Their "not-book" has led to a broader project - photo-editing workshops, and a growing library, of other veterans' stories and pictures, which collectively function as "objects for deployment."
Haller submits the veterans' homemade digital images to a new print-on-demand software and technology to produce documents, or volumes, of "containers" which elaborate on the experience of war. Not surprisingly, before her MCAD photo training, Haller's B.A. degree was in Peace and Conflict Studies. She and her creative partners have found a new use for not-so-common photographs, which seek to resolve inner and national conflicts.