“Misprints” investigates the effect of destruction, trauma, and memory through deliberately accidental printing. Photojournalism ‘represents’ casualties of war; they refer to an actual event. Misprints suppress the literal, and ‘present’ destruction and the meaning of loss of life which is reconstructed in afterthoughts, how we think about it over time.
In my first series of “Misprints,” I researched, and organized stories about civilian and American causalities of the Iraq War, that’s documented in hundreds of photographs, news outlets, and Iraqi/American blogs. The photographs I use are mostly in the public domain since they are works of the United States Government that are excluded from copyright law, while a few others, are under fair usage copyright for the progress of useful arts. The collected photographs are assembled on “Study Sheets” organized by names, location, and dates of the incidents and classified by generic types—civilian, soldiers, IED road explosion, house/building explosion, and so on.
I cull these widely distributed photographs and print them on the wrong side of inkjet transparency film which is then presented on back-lit panels. Without the chemical substrate, the ink explodes and pools, rendering the original images difficult or impossible to recognize. Viewers can examine and experience not the representation of death, as we commonly do in the media, but the actual dismemberment and carnage of the image itself.
The combination of the destructive process manifested in the transformation of the original photograph into blown up abstract colors and broken borders is compelling in several ways. The seepage and splotches evoke a psychological detachment that often happens in the face of violence and physical destruction. The misprinting process is the unacknowledged and forgotten incidents of war. Locations, subjects, and equipment in the images remain blurred and indeterminate, like the fate of cities and human bodies ravaged by war.
Paul Qaysi was born in Baghdad, Iraq, and lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA in sculpture from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY and MFA in the Program in Advanced Photographic Studies from Bard College-International Center of Photography in New York, NY. www.paulqaysi.com