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Volunteer brings together the two major themes of Seawright’s photographic practice; contemporary cities and the representation of conflict. It extends his interrogation of contemporary conflict and how it might be represented and discussed beyond the battlefield. Seawright’s photographs, from his early work in his home city of Belfast to his photographs of battlefields in Afghanistan are a complex and subtle response to the drama-centric imagery of war. Here he draws on earlier interests in mapping, using state specified locations to present the landscape of the American city as a type of battlefield where the spectre of war in the Middle East is tangible on street corners, college campuses, town squares and front yards.Volunteer is a survey of sorts, photographs from today's fraying, centreless post 9-11 North American cities. Each photograph made at the location of a military recruiting station, where a different battle is being fought – to find young men and women to volunteer for service in Afghanistan. Starting in Texas, the highest recruiting state in the US, Seawright visited over 500 military recruitment offices in fifteen states. These new works comment not just on the ongoing war and the battle to recruit new soldiers, but the contemporary North American city, a landscape littered with thrift stores, gun dealerships, fast food outlets, nightclubs, car dealerships beneath super-sized American flags, strip malls and pawn shops. It is in these spaces on the margins of small towns and cities that the recruiters move amongst the unemployed, immigrants, ethnic minorities and students to find the volunteers of tomorrow.Southern states account for 36 percent of the nation's young adults, according to the Department of Defense, but provide 41 percent of the nation's recruits. Texas is the top state in the South, supplying about 10 percent of military enlistees each year.Each year, the services sign up between 280,000 and 300,000 new soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines - and, typically, the services have little problem hitting their numbers. In 2010, for the first time, the four largest branches of the service - the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, comfortably exceeded their recruiting goals. About 99 percent of enlistees have a high school diploma, and scores on the military entrance exam are the highest in the history of the all-volunteer force.15 Large scale photographs. Published article in British Journal of Photography special issue on Political Landscape. Reviewed in Photographic Journal Source, Irish Times (Arts Feature Aidan Dunne), RTE TV The View, RTE Radio, BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Television news, Sunday Times Ireland ed. Published in Building Material 19 - Art & ArchitectureJournal of The Irish Architecture Association.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Feb 2011
EventVolunteer - Kerlin Gallery Dublin / Ireland
Duration: 25 Feb 20112 Apr 2011

Bibliographical note

Event (exhibition): Detonating Rough Ground
Paul Seawright Volunteer - Belfast Photo Festival 2011
OBG / Belfast
03-08-2011 / 16-09-2011
Outputmediatype: Framed Colour Type-C prints on DiBond


  • photography
  • war
  • iraq
  • afghanistan
  • landscape
  • recruitment
  • seawright


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