Although only a small corridor in Manchester’s epic Imperial War Museum, the photo exhibition of civilians in Iraq manages to impress. Sean Smith is a war photographer who worked extensively in Iraq for the Guardian. The exhibition marks the 10th anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, a conflict that has constantly been in the media, but as the photos reveal, often not portraying the true story of the local people.
The exhibition is roughly broken up into four time periods. The first is the pre-war phase when the Iraqi government is shown to have put on extra parades and weddings in this period to convey to the world that Iraqis’ lives would continue as normal despite the impending war. The following two periods chronicle the conflict with Saddam’s regime and the consequent insurgency, respectively. The photos here perhaps do not show a wide spectrum of civilian life, as Smith seems to mostly be following American military personnel, however considering the state of affairs in Iraq, his bravery must nevertheless be commended.
The fourth period contains perhaps the most important lesson of all for historians and it is from 2007 to the present, demonstrating that civilian life is still being affected by the war and the military presence today, despite Western media bolstering notions of troop withdrawal. Ultimately, this exhibition reminds us that the consequences of war after the official cessation of hostilities are often no different for some civilians than the period of war itself.
Iraq: Photographs by Sean Smith is at the Imperial War Museum North until 2nd February 2014.