David Hempenstall

Camp Slayer

During 2005–06 David Hempenstall lived and worked on the US military base, Camp Slayer inside the Abu Ghurayb complex, Iraq. This exhibition presents photographs of that experience.

Art Exhibition previously on at MGA - Monash Gallery of Art in Australia.
From Wednesday 01 July 2009 to Sunday 02 August 2009

Camp Slayer, Baghdad 30/9/05 (from the series Camp Slayer) 2005 image

Published by Monash Gallery of Art on Thursday 23 July 2009.
Contact the publisher.

Comprising 165 Polaroid photographs, the exhibition is a record of the battered remains of the palace complex and the new infrastructure associated with the occupying military forces. For David, the works are also a creative exploration of the photographer’s environment – one at odds with the sensational images that we view in print and television media coverage.

Shaune Lakin, Director of MGA writes that: “These small-scale Polaroid photographs are truly compelling. Hempenstall shocks us with his attention to detail — the small things that describe a personal response to a very harsh military environment. And as American troops withdraw from Iraq, it is a perfect time for us to consider the Coalition’s occupation of the country and its legacy.”

During 2005-06 David Hempenstall lived and worked on Camp Slayer. Working for the US State Department, he was photographed mass grave sites under investigation by the Iraqi High Tribunal.

Hempenstall’s photographs of Camp Slayer were taken during his recreation time. In contrast to the heroic sensationalism that characterises many press images of Baghdad’s recent military occupation, Hempenstall’s Polaroids provide us with a perspective that is both intimate and experimental. They present a picture of the war and the occupation very different to that found in the media and in military public relations.

MGA curator Stephen Zagala says “Viewed together, this series of photographic fragments seems to allude to a bigger picture – the idea of war itself -that is both too complex and horrific to comprehend and to picture clearly.”