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Combat Cameras

Photographers Joel Chapman and Hector Rene are former soldiers who use art history to explore military and institutional power.

Photograph by Hector Rene

In 1947, a former pilot with a doctorate in English literature and an illustrator of the “Tarzan the Ape” comic strip founded the Cartoonists and Illustrators School, to serve returning veterans who needed to work during the day and wanted to learn a trade at night. The school, which would later be renamed the School of Visual Arts, was primarily funded with the G.I. Bill, a program expanded post-September 11 to serve a new generation of veterans.

Joel Chapman and Hector Rene began their careers in the service of the U.S. Military, deployed to Iraq and Kuwait. Chapman and Rene respectively left the Marines and Army and enrolled with the the G.I. Bill in the photography program at the School of Visual Arts, where they met at college orientation in 2010.

Together they began studying a photographic vocabulary that references the iconography of art history—Dutch still lifes, Ancient Greek busts, the Venus—in the context of military and institutional power. Eventually they began to work collaboratively on single images until they were invited to participate in a call-and-response platform by the curators of A New Nothing, where photographer pairs swap visual notes in ongoing image-based conversations.

Starting April 2, Chapman and Rene takeover the Instagram account of @NewRepublic in a daily image swap of existing and new photography.