Our War, a selection of portraits from Edgar Martins’ new project titled Anton’s hand is made of guilt, no muscle or bone. He has two clinically depressed fingers and an angry thumb, has won the Portrait Category of the SONY World Photography Awards 2023. Edgar Martins was also selected as Photographer of the year 2023. This work-in-progress project, which is scheduled to be launched, worldwide, in 2024, has been in gestation since 2019 and is based on a poignant and very personal story and experience: the death and disappearance of the artist’s good friend, photojournalist Anton Hammerl, during the 2011 Libyan war. Developed in north Africa, this part-documentary, part-speculative project responds to Anton Hammerl’s disappearance/death through an examination of the geography, players and circumstances surrounding his demise as well as a reflection on the decisive but paradoxical role that photography has played in conflict zones.
“In 2011, my dear friend and the photojournalist, Anton Hammerl, travelled to Libya to cover the conflict between pro-regime and anti-Gaddafi forces. On 5 April he was forcefully abducted and killed by government militia. Frustrated by the lack of progress in the investigation to find his mortal remains, in 2022 I took matters into my own hands and travelled to Libya.This previously unseen body of work is structured as a self-portrait of Anton Hammerl through the people he photographed and met, and others involved in the conflict (freedom fighters or their descendants, ex-militia, local residents, Gaddafi loyalists or lookalikes, and so on). They were selected because they resembled him, espoused similar ideas and beliefs, or reminded me of him at different stages of our friendship. This project portrays a complex story, warped by absence, that talks of the difficulty of documenting, testifying, witnessing, remembering, honouring and imagining.”