Their Names Upon Gallipoli

Artwork from Their Names Upon GallipoliAs we near ANZAC Day, we thought it was an appropriate time to share some words from renowned photographic artist Kurt Sorensen, who has created works for an exhibition called Their Names Upon Gallipoli Üzerine kendi İsimler Gelibolu.

Kurt Sorensen has combined contemporary large format images of the battle sites with video and sound installations that draw on letters and recollections of combatants and their families from both sides.

Who better to tell you more about it that Kurt himself…

“At approximately 4.30am on April 25th 1915 troops of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps invaded modern day Turkey by landing on a small spit and cove on the Gallipoli peninsula. What followed was a bloody, sorrowful and ultimately purposeless conflict that would indelibly affect these nations forever.

Recently I travelled to Gallipoli to photograph and film the battle sites as they appear today. Although there were hundreds of thousands of other people from various nations involved in the broader Gallipoli campaign, this exhibition focuses on the Anzac and Turkish perspectives. The photographs in this exhibition represent significant sites from both the Anzac and Turkish sides of the front and the titles of the images include both the Anzac and Turkish place names along with the estimated combined death toll.

The video installations depict the scarred landscape which 100 years ago was the scene of bitter, bloody fighting. The film is accompanied by the voices of direct descendants of Anzac and Turkish personnel reading their relatives letters and recalling events that were written and seen on the front lines upon Gallipoli.

It was mainly citizen soldiers that fought the Gallipoli campaign. The Ottoman forces were largely drawn from local farmers and shepherds and aside from the officers these rank and file recruits had a 97% illiteracy rate. As such the stories recalled by Turkish ancestors in this exhibition have been orally handed down. I recorded these stories just a few km’s from the Gallipoli battlefields in the villages of Kocadere and Bigali, September 2014.

Similarly the majority of the Anzac forces were civilian volunteers. However, the recollections included in this exhibition come largely from letters and diaries of the soldiers and relatives themselves. These are read by direct descendants of the soldiers and sometimes give strikingly similar expositions of what went on during the campaign to that of their Turkish enemies.

What these young people would have to do and witness on the bloody ridges of Gallipoli defies description and belies the myths that have built up around the campaign. This exhibition aims to be a sombre engagement with these terrible events and hopes to explore some of the horror that both sides of the conflict had to endure.

Solemn reminders that in total 8,159 Australian, 2,779 New Zealand and 85,000 Turkish personnel died and many thousands more were wounded during this devastating campaign.

Forever, their names upon Gallipoli.

Kurt Sorensen”

 Their Names Upon Gallipoli is at Newington Armory and is open free to public on weekends until 14 June 2015

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Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator, Sydney Olympic Park Authority

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