Bird in Flight Prize ‘20

Bird in Flight Prize ‘20 Finalist: I Died 22 Times

Project by German photographer Rafael Heygster shortlisted for Bird in Flight Prize ‘20.

Rafael Heygster, Germany

The photographic work shows and questions the way our culture deals with “warfare” outside real battlefields. War does not only manifest itself as a military conflict on battlefields with clear physical fronts; it also appears more abstractly in our society in various places.

“I died 22 times” deals with the question “where does war begin?”

The series combines motifs from different scenarios. Images of weapons fairs (war as a business) are combined with motives of Airsoft, a dubious leisure activity (war as a game).

All scenarios have one thing in common: “war” is staged as something entertaining and, at the same time, harmless. War is thereby made consumable.

Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi: Employees of an armaments company wait for customers at their booth at IDEX.
Europe, Poland, Brozek: Some “playing fields” include their own fleet of vehicles with both civilian and military vehicles.
Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi: Young soldiers marching in their dress uniforms at the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX).
Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi: At the opening ceremony of the IDEX International Defense Exhibition and Conference in Abu Dhabi, technical innovations in the defense industry are presented to potential customers in a 20-minute display using pyrotechnics, actors and multimedia storytelling.
Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi: A trade fair visitor is watching a demonstration of combat aircraft and warships at IDEX in Abu Dhabi.
Europe, Germany, Saxony-Anhalt, Mahlwinkel: Makabre Staging: Trash bags filled with straw are supposed to imitate body bags. They are part of a multi-day airsoft festival in Mahlwinkel.
Europe, Poland, Brozek: High school student Eddy P. went with friends to an Airsoft “game” and has not often participated in such games and only has one Airsoft pistol. This is a staged portrait: I asked Eddy to pose for me and to look into the camera.
Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi: A military band leaves the stage after their appearance during the opening ceremony of the IDEX. A security guard is watching the spectators.
Asia, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi: Business people of various backgrounds gather information about a vehicle equipped with machine guns at IDEX.
Europe, Poland, Brozek: The secret highlight of “Operation Endzeit – Rolling Steel” is the appearance of a stripper on the last evening. The stripper’s performance was the topic of conversation among the participants for several days before.
Europe, Poland, Brozek: In a former bunker on an Airsoft playground in Poland , the participants sit together, drink beer and listen to music on the eve before the game starts.
Europe, Germany, Essen: The carpenter Jan L. comes from a family of hunters and grew up with weapons. He is a gun guy and can disassemble and reassemble Airsoft pistols and guns in a short time. This is not staged. I did not arrange anything, but Jan knew that I would visit him to take pictures of him at home, while he is doing what he does in his everyday life. He is aware that I am present in this situation, but I did not ask Jan to pose like this for me.