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Adelphi exhibit on war 'an eye-opener'

A young Iraqi worker pauses at a reconstruction

A young Iraqi worker pauses at a reconstruction project funded by the U.S. Marines in Jurf-as-Sakr, Iraq. (Aug. 8, 2004) Credit: Brian Palmer

For the past month, muffled sounds of warfare have encroached on the usual din of hip-hop rhythms and chattering voices that animate Adelphi University's Harley Student Center.

Students who have walked into a gallery just inside the center's entrance have caught glimpses of battlefield realities - U.S. Marines huddled in a shelter to avoid a lethal rain of mortar shells; medics urgently trying to save the life of a bleeding Iraqi policeman whose bomb-severed hand lies on a cloth beside his body; Iraqi children peering from behind barbed wire.

Although war can seem a faraway abstraction on Adelphi's Garden City campus, a show by a former CNN photojournalist who was embedded with a Marine unit in Iraq has brought the battlefield's harsh reality into full view.

The show, which includes looped video footage complete with audio plus more than 70 photographs displayed in two galleries, is the first Adelphi exhibit to focus on war in recent memory, according to Eliz Alahverdian, the university's director of exhibitions.

"We thought it would be an eye-opener for the Adelphi community," she said of the exhibit. "I wanted people to know there is still a war going on, and we shouldn't dismiss it. This is just a little reminder, very neutral, very powerful."

The images are those of Brian Palmer, a Brooklyn photojournalist and former Beijing bureau chief for U.S. News & World Report. Palmer embedded with a Marine unit in Iraq on three occasions between 2004 and 2006, a time of some of the war's heaviest fighting.

The exhibit ends Sunday, but Palmer will return to Adelphi's campus for a March 29 public discussion of his work.

Palmer, who witnessed the shooting deaths of Iraqis and who survived a mortar attack during which a Marine was killed, described what he called the "tragic improvisation of 19-year-olds put in an untenable situation in which they had to do the best they could."

Palmer said he was unnerved by his own reaction to experiencing war firsthand.

"As with most traumatic events that occurred then, my brain would be activated but my heart would turn off," Palmer said. "When the bullets are flying and the mortars are falling, you just survive. The fear and the wrenching moral and ethical stuff came later."

Several students who were interviewed said the show breached a silence concerning Iraq and Afghanistan they said has muted campus interest in America's two wars.

"This is the first time a person like Brian Palmer has come to the school and forced us to have these conversations," said Drew Facklam, 22, an Adelphi senior who asked Palmer about his experiences during a Feb. 7 gallery talk. "I've never experienced any sort of tragedy these people do every day."

The exhibition, which includes more than 70 photographs plus an hour of video footage, runs through Sunday.

 

Where: Adelphi University, 1 South Ave., Garden City. Video and photography at the Ruth S. Harley University Center Gallery. More photographs at the Klapper Center.

Gallery hours: Today, 11-7; Saturday and Sunday, 11-5.

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