Indelible Images of Mines & Minefields


TTLA's chief photographer, Brett Van Ort, has spent much of the past two years abroad, in part photographing -- at some personal peril -- mines and minefields from a Balkan war.


The resulting images are found here, under the heading, "Minescape."

Here's the text that accompanies the images, as provided by Van Ort:


The consequences of war on a landscape inflict a trauma that is felt for decades after the conflict subsides. Nature does its part to regenerate and conceal the craters, mass graves and trenches that are created by man during the fighting. With the help of man and our ingenious ability to create killing machines, nature temporarily reclaims that which is hers in the aftermath of a conflict. However, underneath hides a most hideous, brutal and random killer- the landmine.

The landscapes I photographed depict the unknown. There is a terror that lies beneath the surface that we cannot see. These landscapes are minefields... or are they?

All of the areas depicted in this project are former front lines of the Bosnian war. Whether or not these landscapes are populated with mines is up to the viewer to decide. In all of these landscapes there is no clear definition between what is deemed safe and what is not. As not every minefield in Bosnia is marked, if there happened to be warning signs present at certain locations, I would purposely avoid placing them in frame. This post-war reality of a dangerous landscape harkens back to a time when nature and wilderness were not easily conquerable and incited fear in the general populous.

Left over munitions and landmines from the wars in the early 1990s still litter the countryside in Bosnia. According to BHMAC (the Mine Action Committee for Bosnia and Herzegovina) just over 3.5% of the country is still contaminated by landmines. Many of the de-miners in the field believe roughly 10% of the country can still be deemed a land mine area. They also feel that nowhere in the countryside is safe as they may clear one area but a torrential downpour may unearth landmines up stream or up river, consequently these unearthed landmines find their way into vicinities that were deemed safe weeks, months or even years ago.

Some of these fields depicted in this project are considered "safe" at this point while others are not. Numerous people told me the safest place to be was on a road or on the tarmac. Most people told me not to walk into nature at all.

The landmines are depicted on a clear, stark, white void. The juxtaposition between the landmines and landscapes creates a sense of unease. In one instance a beautiful landscape lures the viewer in, while in the following image a landmine repulses. The still life of the landmine also presents that which is normally hidden in plain view for all to see.

As we attempt to hedgerow, cultivate and expand into nature's realm, if left to its own devices, nature will simply encompass a field and decades later a forest will grow in a area that was once cleared by man. Finally, I see the notion of landmines protecting the natural setting and allowing the environment to regenerate itself as an ironic twist on our inability to conserve and see into the future.

(For more Van Ort, here are links to his website and to some of his RAND photos for TTLA).

Photos and text copyright and courtesy Brett Van Ort, 2010.

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