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Dangerous Ground / Ashley Gilbertson

January 2014

Exhibit opening, screening, & talk
Tuesday January 14, 2014, 7:30 PM
Moderated by Anna Van Lenten, Half King Photo Series curator

The South China Sea is host to more than half the worldwide shipping traffic and some of the richest fishing grounds on earth, though perhaps the most pressing issue today are the untapped gas and oil reserves that lie beneath the seabed—reserves possibly as rich as those of Kuwait or Nigeria.


According to China, armed with a centuries-old map, the South China Sea belongs entirely to it. But international law says that China’s claim illegally intrudes on Malaysian, Philippine, Taiwanese, and Vietnamese waters.


A vastly under-equipped Philippine military has only one solid defense: continual occupation of each land mass in their portion of the sea. As such, China’s attempts to encroach and occupy a deserted island represent an international legal matter; should the Chinese military force Marines off an island detachment, it’s a declaration of war.As the U.S. pivots away from Afghanistan, it moves into the Pacific. There, for the first time since World War II, the U.S. has allocated 60 percent of its Naval capacity, while at the same time building bases and leaning on proxies in the region—all to combat China’s growing assertiveness and dominance.With the Philippines as their main ally, and the South China Sea as a proving ground of sorts, the U.S. and China stand off in a proxy war for control of a small sea that may well decide the future of the world’s largest ocean and its two superpowers.


ASHLEY GILBERTSON, a freelance photographer, worked in Iraq from 2002-08 and won the 2004 Robert Capa Gold Medal award for his Falluja photos. His 2007 book, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, reached Amazon’s Top 100. “Bedrooms of the Fallen,” depicting the intact bedrooms of service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, was awarded an ASME in 2011 and will be published as a book in 2014. Gilbertson continues to examine such veterans’ issues as PTSD and war-motivated-suicide for The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and other outlets.

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