Photo project

Silent But Violent: War’s Image in Anna Burns and Michael Bodiam’s Project

Michael Bodiam's photo series is a continuance of installation by artist Anna Burns who couldn't find any conventional image of war and decided to create one.

Looking for a powerful image of war Anna Burns created a “Silent But Violent” project – a series of sculptures that symbolize mushroom clouds. To complete the photographic part of the project, she invited British photographer Michael Bodiam. Bird In Flight talked with him about the reasons to create symbols of threat and what is the role of photography in art-installations.

Michael Bodiam, 33 years old

A photographer from London, graduated from the Bournemouth’s Arts Institute. Showcased his works in New York, London, Bristol and Brighton. Was honored with Fuji-film Distinctions Award and Renaissance Photography Prize.


Anna approached me with the idea of wanting to create a photographic series of images that featured craft versions of mushroom clouds. The concept was simple but I could tell immediately that there was a lot of potential to create a series of intriguing and arresting images. We then set about thinking about different ways to recreate the mushroom clouds, how they should be shot and the environments they should be located in.

The images are intended to cause the viewer to consider their stance on the endless imagery of mass destruction and human suffering we are confronted with on a daily basis. Are we hungry, enthralled or just anaesthetised?

I think the juxtaposition of creating something so synonymous with destruction out of something so innocent is unorthodox and interesting; it breaks down the icon and perhaps even the idea of iconography itself. For me, there’s a definite sense of voyeurism to the images – as a viewer you feel like you’ve chanced upon something that you shouldn’t have and you want to take a closer look but you’re afraid of the consequences. The beauty of it draws you in but the realization of its darkness pushes you back.

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/silent-but-violent-new-1.jpg”, “alt”: “Silent But Violent 01”},
{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/silent-but-violent-new-2.jpg”, “alt”: “Silent But Violent 02”}


Anna and her team largely undertake this side of the collaboration. Some of the images require outsourced individuals with specialist skills. For example the balloons’ sculpture required a huge steel structure for the balloons to be attached to. My involvement for this side of things was in making the overall decisions with Anna about what the mushroom cloud in each image should be made from. Each image requires a lot of work before, during and after construction and shooting, so it’s really important to spend time making sure each proposed image is going to offer something truly special to the series. Each photograph was executed in a day.

I don’t expect a mere series of five images will do a lot to change the collective consciousness of the world (especially when we are already saturated by horrific images of death and destruction on a daily basis) but that was never really the intention of the project – the idea was to try and prompt the viewer to consider their own stand point on such images.

{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/silent-but-violent-new-3.jpg”, “alt”: “Silent But Violent 03”},
{“img”: “/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/silent-but-violent-new-4.jpg”, “alt”: “Silent But Violent 04”}

Role of photography in the project

There were only two development paths for the project – one was to create an installation for people to come and visit and the other was to photograph it. For me there’s something about the permanence of a photograph that makes it the better execution of the two. The majority of people who view these images will see them online but the ideal way to see them would be printed large, framed and then viewed in a gallery environment. This way the viewer can fully engage in the image and hopefully some of the ideas that we wanted the viewer to think about will come to fruition. I am aware that viewing the images on the Internet will be a fleeting experience for most which is a shame but without such a medium it would be fair to say that a very small amount of people would ever get to see them.

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