Peter Sutherland shares with Paddle8 excerpts from his book War. Inside, we find sequences of photographs and personal anecdotes from formative moments in his life between the ages 14 – 33, all centered on Sutherland’s fascination with war. Like many American teenagers, he grew to appreciate the beauty and horror of war from when he first encountered the film Platoon, but had a far more intimate encounter as bystander to the Lords Resistance Army while traveling in Uganda. Sutherland didn’t confront war as subject matter for a long time but “at some point,” he says, ” it began to become part of my consciousness and that reinforces the fragility and preciousness of life.” The photographs themselves include symbols repeated over time, juxtapositions of landscapes, collections, befores & afters, candid snapshots and interiors. We present six accounts by Sutherland from his book accompanied by photos which “show how [war] appears to me in everyday life.”
1. PLATOON, AGE 11
My own history with war starts off when I was about 11. My friend’s mom had a scam set up, she would rent VHS tapes from a local grocery store and never return them. My friend ended up giving me some tapes, one of them was PLATOON (dir. Oliver Stone, 1986). I watched the film regularly, I memorized parts and watched it until the tape played back funny. I think the film affected the way i see my friendships. I liked that idea of people growing closer together because they were going through the same thing at the same time. I would feel a bond I thought was similar running on my cross country team in high school and working minimum wage jobs.
2. ARMY GUYS OFF IN THE DISTANCE, AGE 14 +
I grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, there was a military base there. There were basically thousands of 18 year old dudes from all over the country living there and active in the army. I knew girls in school starting from 8th grade on that were dating army guys. I thought this was pretty weird and disgusting but I loved hearing the stories. They would always start off with. Yep, I snuck out and went to the barracks last night. My friend Sara would sing the chorus from a NIN (Nine Inch Nails) song saying ” Bow down before the one you serve” as a reference to giving head to an army guy. Pretty heavy, wrong in many ways but funny.
3. PLATOON AGAIN/ MINISTRY, AGE 15
The film would later become a part of my life again when an audio sample was used in a song by the band Ministry. There is a scene where a soldier pours napalm on his own feet so he can leave battle, his platoon leader threatens to kill him and he is forced to stay in battle. He screams out “NO LOOK MAN”. Ministry released a song called “Flashback” on the Land of Rape and Honey album. There are 2 loops in the song, one was the word “trip” the other was the phrase “NO LOOK MAN.”
The song completely took on the feel of the movie and of war for me and i would see Ministry perform live several times and the song would be a repeating reminder of war.
4. IRAQ/ARMY GUYS IN THE DISTANCE CONTINUED, AGE 20s
Some kids I knew from high school went off to Iraq, some of them liked being in the military and it became a lifestyle. I saw the film GUNNER PALACE (dir. Michael Tucker, 2004), the first documentary showing footage from Iraq. In the film there was a long interview with a soldier from Colorado Springs. He was talking about a highway intersection that had been under construction for his whole life. The film also shows soldiers having a party in “Gunnerpalooza” and making gangsta rap songs about being at war.
5. ARMY GUYS OFF IN THE DISTANCE AGAIN, AGE 30
I did a photo exhibition in Tokyo called “Dirt Land”. In the show there is a photo of a tree that was had the number 666 painted on it in green letters. There was a guy named Rob Abeyta at the show, he said, that photo looks like it was taken in Manitou Springs. He was exactly right and he then told me that he was stationed at the military base in my home town when he was 18 . He said he would hang out with all the skaters there and remembers visiting areas like I was showing in the photos. He and I are now friends and its cool to get to know someone that was always off in the distance of where i was growing up.
6 . Visiting Uganda, age 33
I recently took a trip to Uganda to shoot a video about the cotton farmers for a clothing brand. Northern Uganda has been terrorized for years by the LRA or Lords Resistance Army. Thousands of people have been murdered and many have been forced to join the army as children. The LRA has recently been chased out of Uganda and the people there are returning to a peaceful way of life. I was with people that had lost relatives and friends, were forced to kill others, and have grown up in a culture of violence. People in Uganda don’t really complain. They seem to be above the act of complaining, and are living to enjoy every moment of peace.
Peter Sutherland’s exhibition Victory Over Darkness can be seen at Half Gallery
Check out Peter Sutherland’s blog here
Check out Peter Sutherland’s website