This project, published as a monograph this past Fall, by the German publisher, Kehrer Verlag, considers the varied landscapes of North Africa that the Allied soldier of World War II was forced to endure. Thousands of miles from home, largely untraveled and ignorant of lands and peoples outside his home country, he was dropped onto the shores of what must have seemed to him a dangerous and alien environment—his understanding of the land limited to stereotype, myth and the relevant army field manual. The approach is conceptual, with the photographs of the North African battlefields presented, similar to the New Topographic photographers of previous generations, in an almost anonymous and neutral tone of voice.
I spent a month in Tunisia in 2011 and a month in Libya in 2012 to photograph these unfamiliar North African landscapes upon which many crucial battles in the North African Campaign were fought. The sites were found utilizing old battle maps to follow the paths that the Allied military units used and hadn’t been seen and certainly not photographed in over 60 years. I have documented the battlefields as they currently stand in a personal style of landscape photography; impressionistic muted horizons of desert, coastal seascape and grassland, incorporating bunkers, trenches and physical artifacts of the conflict that remain as part of the environment. The images are taken in daylight, without complexity and noise, portraying a peaceful quietness of the desert or grassland to allow viewers to fill in that negative space with their own visualization of the war.
Matthew Arnold is a photographer living in New York City. He graduated from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, where he studied photography and offset lithography. He also studied photography at the West Surrey College of Art and Design outside London. Immediately after college he taught offset lithography and digital imaging as an adjunct professor at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
Matthew’s photographic work explores our personal, historical, and cultural relationship to this increasingly small and complex world. Past examples include one project documenting the culture of the traveler in today’s society and how it defines one’s home culture; and another capturing one’s internal longing to create a solitary personal space—either within or apart from the larger community. These themes may seem contradictory, but they speak to an overarching theme of the individual and how one relates to the abstruse world in which we live.
His most recent project, entitled "Topography Is Fate—North African Battlefields of World War II," considers the varied landscapes of North Africa that the Allied soldier of World War II was forced to endure. Thousands of miles from home, largely untraveled and ignorant of lands and peoples outside his home country, he was dropped onto the shores of what must have seemed to him a dangerous and alien environment, his understanding of the land limited to stereotype, myth, and a relevant army field manual.
This summer he began a new photographic landscape project, entitled "Amelia Earhart: The Historical and Mythological Landscape," documenting the distant and almost mythical islands associated with the loss of Amelia Earhart during her heroic but ill-fated attempt to be the first woman to circumnavigate the globe in 1937. He will travel to the uninhabited islands and atolls of Nikumaroro, Howland, Baker, and McKean to photograph evidence of their long-held histories and legends. It is the beginning of an artistic endeavor to examine how the multiple hypotheses of a heroic historical figure’s unknown fate in a very distant and foreign land lends itself to the creation of an almost mythological landscape.
His most recent honors include winning the 2013 MFA, Boston, Traveling Fellowship for his project "Topography Is Fate—North African Battlefields of World War II" and Honorable Mentions from both the Jen Bekman Gallery in New York City as well as from the International Photography Awards and the Lucie Foundation for the same project. He has been included in multiple shows across the country over the past year. Last year and the year before, he installed a large body of work as a permanent collection in the Presidential Suite and Grand Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City.
"Topography Is Fate—North African Battlefields of World War II" was recently published as a monograph by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg.
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