ARTS & CULTURE
10/10/2012 02:11 pm ET

What Kind of Camera Does a Genius Use? (IMAGES)

By Alyssa Coppelman

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Ho Chi Minh City (eclipse crowd), 1995, from the series Viêt Nam. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

Photographer An-My Lê was awarded the MacArthur Genius Grant last week, meaning she’ll get half a million dollars over the next five years. The ongoing focus of her work has been the military and war, something that has personal meaning to Lê. Born in Vietnam in 1960, Lê left in 1975 as a political refugee and resettled in the United States.

Over the past decade, Lê has explored many wars in many ways. Her tool of choice, however, is a cumbersome 19th century style camera, bigger than her head. (You can see it in the video here.) As she has photographed Vietnam War reenactors in Virginia and North Carolina, she has lugged this large format camera around, working slowly and carefully. Looking at her photos of various conflicts, some black-and-white, some color, it's hard to tell when they were taken, what's real and what is re-enacted. Her process gives a mystique and ambiguity to what could be, in front of another’s camera, a more expected scene.

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Small Wars (explosion), 1999-2002, from the series Small Wars. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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Small Wars (ambush II), 1999-2002, from the series Small Wars. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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Damage Control Training, USS Nashville, Senegal, 2009, from the series Events Ashore. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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Offload, LCACs and Tank, California, 2006, from the series Events Ashore. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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Manning the Rail, USS Tortuga, Java Sea, 2010, from the series Events Ashore. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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Manning the Rail, USS Tortuga, Java Sea, 2010, from the series Events Ashore. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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Manning the Rail, USS Tortuga, Java Sea, 2010, from the series Events Ashore. (An-My Lê/Courtesy Murray Guy, NYC)

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