LOOK3 – Ashley Gilbertson
By Matthew McAllister
Published: June 23, 2011
One of the most powerful talks that I attended during the LOOK3 festival in Charlottesville this year was given by Ashley Gilbertson. Gilbertson presented his latest project titled, “Bedrooms of the Fallen.” The project consists of a series of pictures of the dormant bedrooms left by soldiers who died at war. Gilbertson explained that he had become frustrated by the public’s lack of response to his photographs coming out of Iraq that depicted the violence surrounding him and the soldiers assigned to protect him.
It was moving to hear him talk about the soldiers in his pictures, and in many cases, explain how they were killed. His wife suggested that he photograph their bedrooms as a way for people to relate to their lives. Since then, Gilbertson has photographed dozens of bedrooms across the US and Europe. In many cases, the rooms are arranged in the exact same way as the day the soldier left, except for the occasional folded flag to remind us of why the room is vacant.
Just as Gilbertson was describing how viewers can relate better to loss through these images, a picture of the bedroom belonging to PFC. Richard P. Langenbrunner of Fort Wayne, Indiana appeared. I immediately recognized a poster on the wall from the movie “The Matrix” and realized I have the same poster on my own wall. The room immediately became far more personal to me and I felt like I knew more about this soldier through this photograph than any description in a newspaper article could provide.