Kiwi cap­tures daily life on the front line

Auckland City Harbour News - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - HUGH COLLINS

An Auck­land pho­tog­ra­pher has braved the front­lines in Iraq to doc­u­ment daily life in a war zone.

Joe Dowl­ing, 29, spent a year and a half liv­ing and trav­el­ling through the Mid­dle East with his cam­era.

He’s now show­cas­ing his work in A Win­dow That Isn’t There, an ex­hi­bi­tion on dis­play in Free­mans Bay, cen­tral Auck­land.

Trav­el­ling with a Kiwi friend, his ad­ven­ture be­gan with a one way flight to Kabul in Afghanistan with the aim of work­ing to­wards Turkey.

Dowl­ing said a cu­rios­ity for con­flict zones wasn’t taken lightly.

‘‘It was def­i­nitely scary, we were the only west­ern­ers on the flight from Delhi to Kabul and ev­ery­one was shout­ing dur­ing take­off and land­ing.’’

Shot pri­mar­ily on black-and­white 35mm film, Dowl­ing said he wanted to doc­u­ment the ‘‘not so sen­sa­tional’’ side of the Mid­dle East.

‘‘A lot of the im­agery that comes out of these war torn coun­tries is a lot of de­struc­tion and de­prav­ity.

‘‘This isn’t a light hearted ex­hi­bi­tion by any means but it’s kind of a lit­tle bit peeled back from the full noise war im­agery that we see com­ing out of these places.’’

The pair made their way to Er­bil, the cap­i­tal of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan where they worked in a high school teach­ing English.

Iraqi Kur­dis­tan is an au­ton­o­mous re­gion in the north of Iraq which has seen lit­tle con­flict since 2003. But he wasn’t there for the com­fort and took his cam­era along with the Pesh­merga, the army of Iraqi Kur­dis­tan, as they de­fended their bor­ders from Isis.

‘‘A lot of the fight­ing would take place at night and we would turn up in the mid­dle of the day and ev­ery­body would be ly­ing around drink­ing tea and smok­ing cig­a­rettes,’’ Dowl­ing said.

The clos­est the pair came to se­ri­ous harm was when mor­tar bombs landed a few hun­dred me­tres away. The sol­diers for the most part were un­per­turbed, which in turn made the sit­u­a­tion a lit­tle eas­ier. ’’Your senses are cer­tainly height­ened and it’s ab­so­lutely scary but you are also kind of com­forted by the calm­ness of the peo­ple around you.

‘‘So when ev­ery­one else around is re­laxed and chilled it’s kind of con­ta­gious, we didn’t see any point to be­ing scared if they weren’t scared.’’ A Win­dow that Isn’t There runs un­til Fe­bru­ary 10 in the All­press Stu­dio at 8 Drake Street in Free­mans Bay.

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