When the civil war in Syria began in March 2011, Dona Abboud was studying typography at the Academy of Fine Arts in Leipzig. The social network Facebook became her most important connection to her family, friends and homeland. Personal and official news, joy and despair, everyday life and the exceptional situation of war all came together in the timelines. For her book “Out of Syria, Inside Facebook”, Abboud has compiled the pictures shared on Facebook by eleven Syrians with diverse biographies, fates and beliefs. A view at various filter bubbles reveals heterogeneous perspectives, contradictory truths and the multifaceted nature of real life on the ground.

WAR PORN (2014)

“Do I exploit the people in my pictures? Can working as a war-zone photographer be morally justified? Why are we attracted to pictures of other people’s misery? Am I producing war pornography?” These are the questions that photographer Christoph Bangert, who spent more than ten years working for international magazines in areas of crisis such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia, Lebanon and Gaza, has asked himself. In his book “War Porn”, he has collected pictures that are subject to the usual processes of censorship such as the inner censorship of the photographer himself, who cannot remember taking some of the photos in the book. Then there are the journalistic selection processes of editorial offices and publishing media as well as the censorship that takes place within viewers, who must decide and overcome themselves if they want to look at these pictures.


British photographer Edmund Clark examines the visual language of the global “war on terror” propagated by the American government under George W. Bush after the attacks of September 11th 2001. By describing in words familiar and widely disseminated pictures of this war, thus depriving the images of their context and visuality, he accentuates the extent to which these images are burnt into our memory and have affected our understanding of this conflict. The colour orange became part of this iconography when the first media pictures of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, clad in orange overalls, appeared in 2002. Since 2014, this pictorial language has been cited in ISIS propaganda films showing prisoners likewise clad in orange.

video, 5:19 minutes

Orange Screen was made in collaboration with Max Houghton.


This project comprises a selection of cards and letters that British prisoner Omar Deghayes received during his six years of incarceration in the American internment camp at Guantánamo Bay. They come from his family, but also from people all over the world who never met Omar. Since every piece of mail was scanned, officially stamped, processed and copied to detect possible dangerous content, Omar never received the originals, but rather abstracted picture material newly created in the bureaucratic process. Whether, when and in what form Omar received his mail was determined by his interrogation officer.

In the video “Section 2 Part 20: One Day on a Saturday”, the idyllic motifs of the postcards Omar received are accompanied by an audio track in which two voices are superimposed. A female voice reads from the Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures Manual, a comprehensive handbook of instructions for camp guards that was made public by the whistle-blowing platform WikiLeaks. A male voice reads excerpts from the witness statement of a Guantánamo inmate. Omar Deghayes was released without charge in December 2007.

video, 7:37 minutes

Section 4 Part 20 was made in collaboration with Anna Stevens.

ERNSTE SPIELE Teil 1/4: Watson ist hin (2009)

Filmmaker and artist Harun Farocki examined the efficacy and ubiquity of pictorial material in situations of crisis. His video project ›Serious Games‹ sheds light on the use of computer-game technology in training American soldiers – both as preparation for combat and in the treatment of traumatic experiences. In ›Watson is Down‹ four Marines are preparing for the worst on a US Marine base in 29 Palms, California. Sitting at computers, they simulate driving a tank through Afghan territory. The animated computer landscape provides geographical data about Afghanistan and thus enables detailed field training and strategic exercises. The trainers place explosive devices and “insurgents” into the terrain. Watson, the aerial gunner on the tank, is shot by a sniper and does not survive the mission.

ERNSTE SPIELE Teil 3/4: Immersion (2009)

The third part of ›Serious Games‹ focuses on the reality effect of computer games. At the Madigan Army Medical Center in Fort Lewis, American Air Force psychologists at a workshop about the “Virtual Iraq” computer animation program are learning how the program will be used in the treatment of war trauma. While the patient virtually moves through the traumatic starting situation for the second time, the accompanying therapist can choose various incidents such as an ambush or explosion and the accompanying sounds. Via immersion or diving into virtual reality, traumatised patients can process the fear-triggering experience by reliving it. In the demonstration of the program, one of the therapists is so convincing in the role of a patient, it is as though he were reporting on his own experience, which lets the viewers of the “Immersion” video immerse themselves in the media-created situation.


What effect can pictures from situations of war and conflict really have? Whom do they reach? And what happens in those places once the media attention has been withdrawn?

Since 2010, Bosnian photojournalist Ziyah Gafić has been cataloguing objects that are the last witnesses to the existence of the approximately 30,000 people who are still missing from the Bosnian war: personal possessions and everyday things that have been exhumed from mass graves and still serve, two decades after the conflict, to identify the dead. Gafić’s visual archive will make it easier for survivors to search for their relatives and, despite the sober nature of the presentation, will enable viewers to identify with the victims.


We are at war. At least that is what it said in the newspaper one sunny day. Terror, refugees, social relegation – what are people afraid of in a country that has been at peace for more than 70 years? For their “Atlas of Angst”, photographer Armin Smailovic and author Dirk Gieselmann set out on a journey through Germany. In interviews, photos and videos, they underwent a quest for “German Angst” and a feeling, medially conveyed, of insecurity and powerlessness. The results of their research are, among other things, a book and a play for the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg.


Over a period of 15 months, British photojournalist Tim Hetherington accompanied a troop of American soldiers to an outpost in eastern Afghanistan. Along with the prize-winning documentary film “Restrepo”, which was produced in cooperation with Sebastian Junger, Hetherington’s project led to the creation of the haunting video installation “Sleeping Soldiers”. It is an attempt to make the horror and juxtapositions of war as a nightmarish experience visible and above all palpable: intimate shots of sleeping soldiers are superimposed with scenes of intense combat. The vulnerability of the young men contrasts with their often-violent everyday existence. Hetherington himself was killed in 2011 in a pro-Ghaddafi offensive against rebels in Misrata, Libya.

Bildmaterial der dpa Picture-Alliance (11. September 2001 – today)

dpa Picture-Alliance

The dpa Picture Alliance GmbH is a subsidiary of the dpa Deutsche Presse Agentur and thus one of Germany’s leading news agencies. Which pictures of current conflicts are “newsworthy” and distributed by the picture agencies? Where do we encounter repetition, familiar iconographies and stereotypes? Which pictorial icons mark our understanding of the many wars and crises of our time? The selection shown here was compiled from a few of the following search terms: Abu Ghraib, Afghanistan, Al Qaida, Arab Spring, Aylan Kurdi, Balkan route, Bataclan, Boko Haram, Charlie Hebdo, Civil War, Donetsk, Drug War, Eastern Ukraine, Erdogan, FARC, Frontex, Gaza, Ghaddafi, Guantánamo, Iraq War, ISIS, Israel, Korengal, Lampedusa, Lebanese War, Libya, Middle East Conflict, Military Coup, Mossul, Nairobi, North Korea, Osama bin Laden, Palestine, Palmyra, Poison Gas, PKK, Refugee Crisis, Rojava, Saddam Hussein, September 11th, Suicide Bomber, Syria, Tahrir Square, Taliban, Terrorist Attack, Tunisia, Utoya, World Trade Center, Yemen…

We thank the dpa Picture-Alliance for their friendly support.