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The Great War

The Great War With his series The Great War Paul Koeleman makes his most extensive use of found photography yet. Several years ago he bought the portraits that form the starting point for this series in an antique shop in Hudson, NY. According to the seller, they came from the estate of a medical doctor who used the photos to document the recovery process of one of his patients but guarantee their pedigree the seller could not. And although the photos are clearly dated -‘1917’ or ‘21st May 1919‘- they do not show any injuries or startling deformations. “In the photos themselves war as such is not visible, it is almost an academic study of the torso,” says Koeleman. But injuries can also be psychological in nature. It is Koelemans manipulation of the photos by means of Photoshop, applications and layering which can be read as the externalization of the possible causes of the psychological traumas that a war like The Great War can cause: from the trenches, hidden injuries, shell shock and the fear of being buried alive, to pain and impotence, all caught within a fixed frame. In the work of Paul Koeleman frames and layering are important themes. They find expression in the spatial aspects of work and in the search for depth in the two dimensions of photography as well as in the expression of the emotional life behind the mask of human skin.

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