Koen Wessing: The Indelible Image of Post-War Conflict

'You must go on. I can't go on. I'll go on' - Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable

Estelí, Nicaragua 1978

Estelí, Nicaragua – 1978


Koen Wessing’s (Amsterdam, 26 January 1942 – Amsterdam, 2 February 2011) photographs tell the stories of conflict in the post-war world: decolonisation, violence and brutality in Latin America, the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the war in Yugoslavia, apartheid in South Africa and the resurgence of China. Wessing’s star rose with his photographs of the 1973 military coup in Chile and the overthrow of the Salvador Allende government. Back then South America was where you went to pick up drugs and a kidnapped loved one, or engage in the kind or rigid politics that had left millions dead and destitute in Europe. The tension in Wessing’s pictures is palpable. The air is taught, people existing on sharp intakes of breath. Hard little men dressed in guns and smooth Playmobil helmets swagger along trees stripped of vegetation, the soil as exposed as the resilient women waiting to exhale. These photographs are beautiful. But what holds you is the sense of threat, the air of menace that at any moment something terrible is going to happen.


Garde devant l'ancien palais de Nicolae Ceaușescu, Bucarest 1990

Garde before the palace of Nicolae Ceaușescu, Bucarest, Romania, 1990

Funérailles de l'activiste anti-apartheid Helen Joseph à la cathédrale de Johannesbourg, Afrique du Sud 1992

Funeral of anti-apartheid activist Helen Joseph at Johannesburg Cathedral, South Africa – 1992

Afrique du Sud 1992

South Africa, 1992

Pékin 1985

Peking – 1985

Snipers attaquant la foule pendant les funérailles de l'archevêque Romero, San Salvador

Snipers attacking the crowd during the funeral of Archbishop Romero, San Salvador

Shanghai 1985

Shanghai – 1985

Nicaragua 1978

Nicaragua – 1978

Estelí, Nicaragua 1978

Estelí, Nicaragua – 1978

Chili septembre 1973

Chili – Septembre 1973


Chili septembre 1973

Chile – Septembre 1973

Chili septembre 1973

Chile – Septembre 1973

Chili septembre 1973

Chile – Septembre 1973

Dublin 1963

Dublin – 1963

Londres 1963

London – 1963

Amsterdam 1966

Amsterdam – 1966

See more of Koen Wessing’s work in The Indelible Image at Jeu De Paume.

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