August 4, 2003, (near) Tikrit, Iraq
© Geert van Kesteren
Courtesy the artist

Geert Van Kesteren

Exhibition: Why, Mister, Why? and Baghdad Calling

Dutch photojournalist Geert Van Kesteren (1966) is based in Amsterdam. His first book Mwendanjangula! Aids in Zambia (2000, Mets & Schilt), an inside report on the Aids pandemic in Africa, was critically received and banned from the 2000 World Aids Congress in South Africa, despite the fact that these photographs won several international awards and was intensively published in world leading magazines.

Van Kesteren is a frequent traveller to Africa, Middle East and South East Asia. His first trip to Iraq was in 1998 during operation Desert Fox. Why Mister, Why? Iraq 2003-2004’’ is a photo book and exhibition that shows in hundreds of photographs and text the situation in Iraq following the declaration ‘Mission Accomplished’, a culture clash of rare proportions. Van Kesteren was witness to the mass grave created by the Saddam regime; Shi’ites enjoying their awaking freedom; the occupying force of an arrogant world power. Embedded with US troops – for only six weeks in a seven months period time-, he witnessed disgracefull raids on Iraqi citizens, who had hoped for a better future. Why Mister, Why? outlines why it will take a long time before the Iraqi people can enjoy a semblance of peace.

In ‘Baghdad Calling’ Van Kesteren shows how Iraqi refugees are living in Jordan, Syria and Turkey. Besides these professionally shot images, the book reveals everyday life of Iraqis themselves. Van kesteren collected hundreds of photographs from the mobile phones and digital cameras of Iraqi citizens who stayed behind in Iraq. These images reveal places where journalist dare not to tread for reasons of personal safety. The combination of professional images, amateur snapshots and written interviews with refugess, giving their first-hand accounts of the horrors that have befallen them, provides a penetrating insight of the situation in witch the Iraqi citizens finds themselves in 2006 and 2007.