22 March - 22 May 2014
Polka Galerie

Stanley Greene

Hidden Scars

Grozny, Chechnya, 1997


Stanley Greene A Silent Melancholy
by François Cheval, head curator of the Musée Nicéphore Niépce

Difficult awakening on this cruel and crass land where Stanley Greene settled with tragic coherence. Perhaps, he has arrived to the point where he only sees such realms and provides glimpses of its somber expanses. The photographer took up residency in the kingdom of shadows where everything appears in black and white; impressions of frost or burn, vague sensations of a gloomy cold and charred earth.

An undisputed master of a certain photographic reality, Stanley Greene deepens the relationship between himself and this definitely ill built world. The black box serves as his personal diary, the echo of an undertaking always renewed. Taken first and foremost for himself, his images are destined for a select few. They can escape the gaze of those who do not feel concerned. These series of fleeting notes, gravely recorded, form tales worthy of Vasily Grossman’s short stories.

He is not a photographer by “trade”. He has seen. For the most part, he has lived the imbecility of this world, the dehumanization of mankind, its scowls and its sneers. The number of crooks found around Stanley Greene is unbelievable. A portrait tells the story of characters: wicked chiefs, reckless combatants, victims always and forever innocent, resigned elders, women of unfathomable beauty. How many times has he laid his eyes on the ground and its scars? “The earth eats men in a single bite.”

He is a modern paladin, the last to track and protect the power of life. He does not insult matter, because he loves and looks for it. With the frenetic sound of the camera, he escorts Black Panthers and punks. While we expect violent tones, he teaches us the photographic language of silence. Whispers, hushed words and few gestures form, once juxtaposed, a mosaic of somber shards. Better yet, a patchwork whose faded fragments, at times, makes us see the fatality of our century.

But, his noble attitude, however tangible it may be, is nothing without skills. He nurses his biography as much as his appearance. An armor made of leather and a simple kerchief for a helmet are all he needs to confront dogmas and stupid convictions. In their suicidal madness, the countries where he fights lies and crisis have no needs for free men like him. In his rebellion against the status quo creeps a belief in a certain kind of truth.

War correspondent, he is not. Present on the frontlines of crises, Stanley Greene observes, like a sniper, the ever-expanding distance between the ruthless truth delivered by the facts and the lies spoken by the leaders. A misted window, the heavy movement of tanks, the dirty fatigues, the slow gestures of dancers, the black shawls, the naked bodies of women, the impossible meeting of opposites.

For Stanley Greene, these perceived and depicted similarities are not merely a moral judgment on good and evil, but the affirmation of a conscience. This melancholic knight, who harbors no bitterness, embodies tenacity in concerned photography, a model now rendered useless and without end. 

Stanley Greene, a former member of the revolutionary African-American group The Black Panthers, was born in New York in 1949. His interest in photography started after his encounter with W. Eugene Smith, a pioneer of photojournalism – incidentally, Greene received the prestigious grant that bears the name of his first mentor in 2004 for his work in Chechnya.

His career as a war photographer truly launched in 1989, when he immortalized the fall of the Berlin Wall with a photograph entitled "Kisses to All, Berlin Wall". Two years later, he joined the French agency VU’.

When covering the attempted coup d’état against Boris Eltsine in 1993, he feared for his life while jailed in Moscow’s White House. Greene then completed numerous reportages in some of the world’s most dangerous regions: Kashmir, Nagorno-Karabakh, Lebanon, Iraq, Somalia and Rwanda. In 2005, he went to Texas and Louisiana to photograph the Katrina devastation from Houston to New Orleans.

In 2007, he contributed to the creation of the Noor agency, which seeks to follow a pure and contemporary editorial line and promote long-form photo essays. Stanley Greene has received seve- ral awards throughout his career, including the Katrina Media Fellowship, the prix International Planète Albert Kahn (PIPAK), and five World Press Photos.