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Where is Rwanda?




Ever notice how the language of violence and the language of photography sometimes overlap? A gun is loaded, and so is a camera. Shoot a victim, shoot a picture. A gun is shot, and so is a roll of film. New, auto-focus cameras are called point-and-shoot cameras by many in the business. For those who are disturbed by such metaphors, there are alternative ways to describe photography. A picture can be “taken” and a photograph is “made”.

Gilles Peress traveled in Rwanda, making pictures during a particulary grim war between two of the country’s ethnic groups. In this photograph the realities of the conflict get almost too close for comfort. Peress chose a point of view many photographers might avoid. Most would move away from the figure in the center of the frame in order to compose the picture, but Peress uses that figure to create the composition. The other figures in the picture seem perched on the center figure’s shoulders.

The tilted horizon line is a characteristic of many Peress pictures. It lends movement to this scene, as if we are looking through a hand-held movie camera as the photographer walks forward, following the main figure into the frame.


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Minneapolis Institute of Arts