Reading Period: 2 minutes
“As I grapple with what happened, I hope that the project enables the viewer a more seductive encounter and insight into the particular aftermath of war”
Jessica Hines was a child when her sibling Gary went to war. He or she was drafted into the ALL OF US army, landing in Vietnam on 04 November 1967, the day Hines turned 8. Without their primary caretaker, Hines’ ill parents sent her to live with relatives, instantly shattering any semblance of home. Gary made it the war, but experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, a decade after he returned, required his own life.
My Brother’s War is Hines’ attempt to process his death. Whenever she finally dared to open a box of Gary’s belongings, which she’d hidden away for years, afraid of the painful memories it might stimulate, Hines “became overwhelmed simply by curiosity – and then a sense of obligation – to tell the particular story”. Employing his photos and letters as a kick off point, Hines retraces her brother’s journey, piecing together a deeper understanding of his knowledge.
From attending veterans’ reunions in order to travelling twice to Vietnam and locating the areas where the girl brother was stationed, Hines confronted her own loss and sought personal closure along the way. At Chu Lai, where Gary worked as a staff chief on Chinook helicopters, the desolate, stormy landscapes seemed to embody her frame of mind. By incorporating her thumb or even shadow into the images, Hines reminds the viewer associated with her presence throughout, enmeshing her experiences with those of her brother.
The particular artist’s greatest challenge was photographing the invisible: the way to picture someone who no longer exists and capture unseen trauma? Hines’ resulting experiments embrace serendipity, employing techniques such as light play and magnification to create otherworldly, ethereal images that give the illusion of storage. Frequently she incorporates metaphor. In one image, inspired with a dream related to her by one of Gary’s army comrades, Hines superimposes her brother’s portrait over a Chu Lai night sky sourced through Google Earth. His representation in the dark reservoir below appears to symbolise the unconscious, something that Hines is continuously attracted to in her work.
Through highlighting her brother’s story, Hines brings attention to an invisible aspect of war, which usually ultimately proves just as dangerous: the battle that endures in people’s minds long after the physical event has ended. As Hines gravely records in her book, it is been said that more those who served in the American battle in Vietnam committed committing suicide than were actually put to sleep in combat – and the suicides continue, she adds. My Brother’s War is a raw and poignant record of this psychological toll, the results of which can be felt throughout generations. “It is my hope that although the function is so acutely personal, it can resonate universally, ” produces Hines. “As I grapple with what took place, I hope the project allows the viewers a more intimate encounter plus insight into the aftermath associated with war. ”