Constellation Cafe Books : M*A*S*H Iraq

Personally, Thomas Dworzak’s Kavkaz is my favourite (which I’ll review in a few days) but for most people its too moody and random. So, instead I’m going to introduce you to MASH IRAQ.

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Published in 2007, M.A.S.H Iraq follows the war operations of two US Army medical units. This 80 page hardbound book starts with a really generic cover, along with the yellow and black title text, its design is clearly 70’s inspired. Inside you find a mix of black and white screenshots and color images from the field showing the army medical unit at work. The pages are thick pure mat and the non pearl finish which adds to the design theme.

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It might seem odd at first but as you flip through the book, its easy to see why the design is as what it is. The photographer uses a 70’s American show called “M.A.S.H” to provide the framwork for the images shot. For those who have not seen the series, its a fictionalized dark comedy about the United States Army Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (MASH) in the Korean War.

As I was discussing in the last review, photojournalistic work is very difficult to publish as a book but by using the TV show with subtitles, Thomas creates a narrative, using them as comments on the images to follow. The dark statements beautifully balance the images of combat, almost making a political statement on the American policies and his own opinion of war. The layout not only breaks away from the monotony of war images but de-romatisizes the idea of war specially for an remote observer.

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In his interview on Ideastap, Thomas shares a very interesting comment :

Everybody has this taboo view of war. It can be great fun, too, and I think it’s important to know that. There are a lot of people, including myself, that have had a very good time in different wars. And it’s an intensity you miss afterwards. I’m not in favour of war, God forbid. It would be better if there was no war, definitely. But once it’s there, you’ve got to look at it.

At the heart of the book, lies this very conflict of morals. M.A.S.H is opinionated yet open to interpretation. For me its very anti-war yet very pro-war according to Thomas. And the choice of using a dark comedy television show to build a narrative structure really makes you think about those morals in question.

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MASH is a good book but its not a book I would buy. Its a offshoot, a personal opinion on the assignment Thomas did for TIME magazine and its really clever to use the tv show to make the work a lot more personal. But there are better books by Dworzak to have. Still, trolley books is kind enough to not make this book really expensive, so if you think you can spare 15£ (1500 INR) then go for it.

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