Giuseppe Di Bella

Abu Ghraib series (2004/2006)

The Abu Ghraib series investigates the consumption and treatment of public images circulating within the contemporary society. I chose to revisit the images released by the international press in May 2004, depicting human rights abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. I transformed the images into a collection of postage stamps which were then sent out around the globe, gaining a stamp of approval in the process.

I choose the postage stamp format as a vehicle for my ideas because of its consumable, and desirable characteristics. I was interested in it because it is a powerful form of communication as it travels around the globe. Its traditional function is to celebrate, pay tribute, and commemorate the traditions and culture of a country.

I was particularly interested in how the act of licking and stamping a post stamp could recall a notion of humiliation and abuse as revealed in the Abu Ghraib photographs. I was conscious that this process could turn the viewer into a consumer and could make them aware of the treatment of public images. It can also lead the consumer to become, to a certain extent, an accomplice to the violence.

Repetitions of images on the stamp sheets are also a reflection of the depersonalisation that happens to victims of such abuse. Intimate and personal details of each account, and their consequences for the abused, are hidden and forgotten as the images are multiplied, repeated and ‘consumed’ by society. As well as being a critical statement about conflict and photography, the work also questions our ability to process, reflect and ultimately understand the meaning of the image in a world hyper saturated with images that may well alter our perception and understating of the reality. The Abu Ghraib series invites us to reflect on the way we look at images and understand them.