News & Events

Marine Eye's View of Iraq War Photographed in Occupation. 8/27-9/16, 2006

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — U.S. Marine Corps reservist and Vassar alumnus Major Benjamin Busch has attentively photographed his two tours of duty in the Iraq War, which have spanned the 2003 invasion, an early civil organization project, and a more recent reconstruction deployment. Twenty-one of his 2005 photographs, "Occupation," documenting the effects of the war on both Iraqi civilians and American soldiers, will be exhibited Sunday, August 27, through Saturday, September 16, in the James W. Palmer Gallery of the College Center. Busch will discuss his exhibit on Thursday, September 14, at 6:00 p.m. in Taylor Hall, Room 203, followed by a reception at 7:30 p.m. in the Palmer Gallery, and both events are free and open to the public.

Missing Boy, 2005. Benjamin Busch.

"Occupation" spans photographs taken from February through September 2005 in and around Ar Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Al Anwar province. "I tried to record Iraq as its past was dissolving and its future was uncertain. Photographs allow me to hold on to what I notice as I pass through time and place," wrote Busch, a 1992 Vassar studio art graduate, in the exhibit catalogue. "I am often drawn to record fragile evidence and temporary debris for this reason. The walls will be repainted, the cloth will fade, the garbage will tear away from the wire, the people will age, and American troops will eventually withdraw, but these photographs will remain."

Busch compares his photography of Iraq to the way, "Archeologists are forced to search for and imagine the lives of lost people by uncovering relics that prove that they existed, "In some ways I am searching for the same things while they are still on the surface, while they are still informally displayed, before we wait long enough to consider them historical evidence," he wrote.

Busch documented his first tour in Iraq in 2003 in the photo exhibit "The Art in War," which in 2005 was also shown both by Vassar and the University of Maryland University College. While his earlier photographs documented a "period of calm" after the invasion, Busch recently told The College Park Gazette that his new exhibit, "depicts the often-painful post-war reality." For example, his photo "Two Tanks" shows a child's chalk drawing of two American tanks that rolled through Ar Ramadi. The newspaper also reported that his photo, "'Casualties' was taken as smoke poured from an American armored vehicle decimated by an insurgent attack. One of Busch's closest friends died in the explosion."

A month after Busch and his Delta Company took part in the Iraq invasion, he was assigned as the Provisional Military Responsible Officer for the city of Jassan. He helped lead the organization of a city council, police force, and other civilian infrastructure before his tour ended. More recently in Ar Ramadi, he was mediating reconstruction efforts among newly elected Iraqi government officials, and various municipal directors, contractors, and local leaders.

Busch was an active member of both the Vassar and Poughkeepsie communities during his studies at the college . He took part in First Step, a community outreach program for which he was awarded the Wendy Breslow Award for Volunteerism and Community Service. During his senior year, Busch completed the 10-week Marine Corps Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia, and after graduating from Vassar he later accepted a commission as a Second Lieutenant Marine Corps Officer.

Busch was eventually deployed to Okinawa and South Korea, and soon promoted to First Lieutenant. He left active duty in 1996, and has since served more than 1,500 days in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. He is also an accomplished actor, currently playing detective Anthony Colicchio in the HBO series, The Wire. His TV series credits also include The West Wing and Homicide, Life On The Street, and his films include Rules of Engagement and South of Hollywood.

For Palmer Gallery hours, or to arrange accommodations for people with disabilities, call the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Friday, August 11, 2006