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The biafran war in Nigeria 1967

The only photo in color

The nigerian civil war lasted from July 6, 1967 until January 15, 1970. The belligerents were: Nigeria and egypt against Biafra and Benin. The republic of Biafra was formed by some of the southeastern  provinces of Nigeria, separating themselves from Nigeria due to a political conflict.

Bruno Barbey traveled to Nigeria to take pictures of the war, but only on its first year. Barbey took photos mostly on the city of Lagos, the city of Nsukka and the Biafran jungle. ┬áSome of the photos on the frontier of Lagos show billboards most in common with american advertisements of the 1950′s. When inside the city, some other advertisements in the city of Lagos show propagand such as keeping the country together and recruitment for the civil defense (oddly enough there’s one photo regarding various beer ads). In the photos regarding the city of Nsukka, it is only shown the shantytown side of the city, along with an ad that says “crush the rebellion”. The majority of the photos show either soldiers, the outskirts of Biafra, or the poor sectons of both cities, showing their distress generated by the war.

The photo shown here is the only one in color from this part of his portfolio. It shows soldiers just about to get off a stopped truck,ready for battle. The odd thing is that one of these soldier has bare feet, showing that even the soldiers suffered from poverty. The one in the middle looks at the camera, ruining the element of surprise normally most of these kinds of photos have, yet Barbey took this photo very close to the soldiers, which means that it does show more detail thanks to that specific positon, in which he could’ve “lost his head”. The soldier of the left seems to be sitting down, almost as if he was posing, while the guy on the background is taking control of a turret gun. The civilians of the backgroun don’t seem to be agitated, possibly because they’re so used to this. It has natural lighting and you can recognize the uniforms, but the sky has taken too much focus from the rest of the scenery, whci makes it an odd mix of light-dark (possibly because of the quality of the camera).

The Nigerian war ended with Nigeria taing over Biafra, making it part of the country one more time. While Barbey’s coverage doesn’t focus too much on the actual war, it is an interesting collection of photos to see, in order to understand the sociolicgical, physical and emotional impact caused by the war. Amazingly enough, Barbey didn’t take a photo of a limbering victim or a killed civilian (not to suggest there weren’t any in the war), which means Barbey didn’t have to rely on the shock factor that some of these photos normally take, meaning Barbey doesn’t “go with the flow”. He doesn’t follow the motto of “If it bleeds, it leads”.

Source of photo: http://www.magnumphotos.com/image/PAR219839.html

Source of background information: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nigerian_civil_war

The other photos: http://www.magnumphotos.com/Catalogue/Bruno-Barbey.html#/http://www.magnumphotos.com/Catalogue/Bruno-Barbey/1967/NIGERIA-The-Biafran-War—-1967-NN143766.html

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