Image Project – Michael S. Webster

What We Fought For?

My production process involved knowing what I was starting with, that being my triptych of photos I took when visiting East Berlin during my tour of duty in West Germany in the late 80s. I wanted to use this photo, but wasn’t sure how. I saw it as being a border between East and West Germany, and derived from that a separation between Communism and Democracy. Seeing that connection I then saw a connection between the East Germany of Then and the USA of Now and the restrictions and surveillance policies.

Now that I had a story, I needed to figure out how to tell it. I decided to keep the idea of the triptych as being a border, not only for an Oppression|Freedom binary, but also as a Then|Now binary. So I would separate the picture in three frames. The top being Freedom/Past and the bottom Oppression/Now.

With that I saw it as being a reflection over my feelings with being a Cold War Veteran who stood against the Soviet Union to maintain freedom and then seeing the country I love turn more and more into the regime that millions of my brothers and sisters in uniform stood on the bulwarks to defend against.

I had a theme which I call “What We Fought For” and a plan. Now I needed the top and bottom images. I used the Constitution of the United States to connote the idea of ‘Freedom’. Another image of ‘Freedom’ is the Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor. Those were my two main images, with the first image being of Past|Freedom being the Constitution. The second image representing the Now|Oppression binary I used the image of the Statue of Liberty and the New York skyline. However, the New York skyline doesn’t denote ‘Oppression’ by itself. So, I added a symbol of the new ‘America’: a military drone to the New York skyline.
The Iconography of the Statue of Liberty and “We The People” of the Constitution connotes Liberty, Democracy, and Freedom. The middle image of the border on the East/West German border denotes a border between Democracy and Communism. Even if someone does not recognize the location, the text “YOU ARE LEAVING THE AMERICAN SECTOR” denotes a division between American and Non-American; specifically Democratic and non-Democratic ‘Sectors’. The iconography of the drone connotes surveillance, spying, and, because of the ‘drone war’ in the Gulf, an inhuman face on warfare.
The cultural context is one of a disappointment towards policies that bring a country once dedicated to the tenets of Freedom closer to that of Communist countries we stood against. It would be more relevant to other Cold War Veterans and I plan on posting it to Veteran-based groups on Facebook as well as my personal page.

I enjoy playing with images and manipulating them, although the learning curve for the software programs were rather annoying. Since my drawing ability isn’t even at the level of an arthritic paraplegic near-sighted cockroach, manipulating images other have made is far easier for me, and actually looks far better.

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