The Eyes of War
In ‘The Never-Ending War’, I portrayed the combatants of a conflict. The sequel became a project about the victims. Mr. Frederick Bentley told me that he was blinded by a German grenade in the Second World War and has lived in a home for blind war victims ever since. His story touched me and it became the beginning of ‘The Eyes of War’ (2007-2012).
In this series I portrayed and spoke to 40 men and women who were soldiers, young adults or children at the time, in Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ukraine and Russia. All have been blinded by the violence of WWII. By applying the visual concept (including spoken testimony) of the series about the combatants also to the victims, you can compare both groups. The paradox of photographing blind people is that the people seem to be looking at me, while they cannot see me.
In this project former enemies are united in their fate as blind people and victims of WWII. It is a timeless story. Today, people still become blind as a result of war.
Book publication: ‘The Eyes of War’ (Hatje Cantz Publishers)
Works from this project are included in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
“This book is made up of inescapable stories and unforgettable faces (……). Why that is, how it happened, is written in the stories that the photographer, Martin Roemers, has captured in his spare, pared-down prose, which hits you head on because there is nothing to hide behind. (……) Roemers, with the skill of the writer that he is, has stripped away everything that might distract from that essence. (… …) because these are all frontal photographs of faces in merciless black and white, it seems as though you are walking through an endless gallery of statues in a museum of horrors, a classical antiquity where all suffering has been petrified as a lasting lament.“
— Cees Nooteboom
Meditations on Photographs: ‘Frederick Lennart Bentley by Martin Roemers’
“You think you know, and then you don’t. You find out why you don’t know and what you need to know instead. But once you look at the photograph again, you’re being thrown back to an earlier stage, almost to the moment when you first saw this portrait. The moment you try to clarify things, the moment you really try to nail the damn thing to the wall, a wall, anything that might give it stability, certainty… everything deflates.”
— Conscientious, Joerg Colberg