Jan Grarup: Silence Before Something
“This is going to change the world as we know it.”
Meet the award-winning Danish photographer Jan Grarup, who has covered the Ukraine war and spent months on the frontline. Read more …
“The pictures are a documentation of the brutality within the conflict itself. It’s about civilians and civilian casualties because they hit the hardest. The Russians are terrorizing the civilian population. They are hitting civilian infrastructure, may it be water, electricity, or heating. That brutality is extremely important to show. It is about getting as close to these people as possible.”
Grarup is convinced that the ongoing war in Ukraine will mark the beginning of a new area that will isolate Russia from the Western World for generations to come: “I have been covering wars and conflicts for the last 35 years – just about every conflict you can imagine. In many ways, the brutality of the genocide in Ruanda in 1994 is second to none. But the war in Ukraine is coming close. It’s a country desiring democracy, freedom, and independence – and because of that, its people are killed.”
Grarups also reflects upon his feelings covering the war, such as his general discomfort with silence as “you can be sure that something is about to happen.” On the other hand, he sees the necessity to document the war for future generations and the possible prosecution of war crimes.
“What I like about black-and-white photography is its timelessness. We think in our part of the world that the world has changed, developed, and moved far away from what we have seen historically. But the fact is: It hasn’t. It’s still the same atrocities. It’s still the same victims.”Jan Grarup was born in Denmark in 1968 and is today regarded as one of the leading and most experienced war photographers globally. Already in 1991, the year of his graduation, he won the prestigious Danish Press Photographer of the Year Award, a prize he would receive on several occasions.
In 1993, he moved to Berlin for a year, working as a freelance photographer for Danish newspapers and magazines. Afterward, Grarup covered many wars and conflicts worldwide, including the Gulf War, the Rwandan genocide, the siege of Sarajevo, and the Palestinian uprising against Israel in 2000. His coverage of the conflict between Palestine and Israel led to two series: The Boys of Ramallah, which earned him the Pictures of the Year International World Understanding Award in 2002, followed by The Boys from Hebron.
His book, Shadowland (2006), presents his work during the 12 years he spent in Kashmir, Sierra Leone, Chechnya, Rwanda, Kosovo, Slovakia, Ramallah, Hebron, Iraq, Iran, and Darfur. In Foto8’s review, it is “intensely personal, deeply felt, and immaculately composed.” His second book, Darfur: A Silent Genocide, was published in 2009. In 2017 he released the prizewinning bestseller And Then There Was Silence. He is working on a follow-up called While We Bleed with Danish author Adam Holm about the war in Ukraine.
Jan Grarup has won numerous prizes for his dedicated work, for example, eight World Press Awards, the Pictures of the Year International World Understanding Award, the UNICEF Children Photo of the Year Award, Visa d’Or, Leica Oskar Barnack Award, to mention a few of the more prestigious ones.
Jan Grarup was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in Copenhagen, Denmark. The interview took place at the Danish War Museum in March 2023 on the occasion of Grarup’s exhibition One Year With War.
Camera: Jakob Solbakken
Edited by: Helle Pagter
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet and C.L. Davids Fond og Samling.
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