Christopher Sims / 2010

Subtle, yet socially poignant, Christopher Sims’ work captures the ‘missing records’ of modern war, documenting the strange and sometimes familiar facets of an American soldier’s ancillary experience.

The seventh Baum Award was presented to Christopher Sims in 2010 under the curatorial direction of Chuck Mobley of SF Camerawork.

Sims was born in 1972 in Michigan, and grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. He received his undergraduate degree in history from Duke University in 1995 and later worked as a photo archivist at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The two years he spent as an archivist were extremely influential to his future photography career where his passion for history, documentation and photography grew.

Christopher Sims, "Survivor, Camp America", 2006, from Guantanamo Bay

Christopher Sims, “Survivor, Camp America”, 2006, from Guantanamo Bay

In 2003 Sims received a Master of Visual Communications from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and then proceeded to earn a Master of Fine Art from Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008. Influenced by his time as a Holocaust photo archivist, his work continued to examine war as he explored its place in history from a modern context.

Recognized for the Baum Award in 2010, Sims’ photographs in, Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan, depict the people and places that play a role in the fictitious “villages” that provide the U.S. military with training grounds for new soldiers. The villages serve as a strange and poignant way station for people heading off to war and for those who have fled it. Soldiers interact with pretend villagers, often recent immigrants from Iraq and Afghanistan who have now found work in America playing a version of themselves in the lives they left behind. He melds his understanding of history with his passion for photography, boldly changing the standard of war photography; instead of focusing on the destruction, pain and blood, he captures the unseen sides of war for future generations.

"Green Mosque, Camp Mackall, North Carolina", 2007 from "Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan"

“Green Mosque, Camp Mackall, North Carolina”, 2007 from “Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan”

Part activist, part historian, Sims documents the “unsensational” side of modern war. Continuing on this photo documentation of the strange and unseen, his second body of work, Guantanamo Bay, examines not the high security prison as one would expect, but rather the American military outpost, bizarre and void of human presence. The photographs in this series capture the detritus of suburban America—playgrounds, pools, and clubhouses—abandoned and lackluster.
In yet another perspective on the effects of war in American society, in the series, Hearts and Minds, begun in 2007, Sims captured the faces of young individuals participating in virtual war simulations. Cast in a room of isolated war experiences, the unique portraits demonstrate the virtual war experience of American youth.

"Mother with Babies, Fort Polk, Louisiana", 2005, from "Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan"

“Mother with Babies, Fort Polk, Louisiana”, 2005, from “Theater of War: The Pretend Villages of Iraq and Afghanistan”

In 2012, Christopher Sims was named one of the “new Superstars of Southern Art” by Oxford American magazine, and he received the Arte Laguna Prize in Photographic Art in 2015. Exhibitions of Sims’ work have been staged at the Houston Center for Photography in Texas; the Griffin Museum of Photography; the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina; the Light Factory in Asheville, North Carolina; and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. His project, Guantanamo Bay, was featured in The Washington Post, the BBC World Service, Roll Call, and Flavorwire. As of 2016, Sims is the Undergraduate Education Director for the Center for Documentary Studies and a Lecturing Fellow in Documentary Arts at Duke University, Durham, NC. Christopher Sims is represented by Ann Steward Fine Art, Chapel Hill; Civilian Art Projects, Washington, D.C.; and Clark Gallery, Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Credits – 2010 Baum Award

Host: SF Camerawork
Curator: Chuck Mobley
Jury: Bruce Hainley, contributing editor, Artforum, Los Angeles
Chuck Mobley, Curator, SF Camerawork
Erin O’Toole, Baker Street Foundation Associate Curator of Photography, SFMOMA
Jack von Euw, Curator of The Bancroft Library Pictorial Collection, UC Berkeley
Tina Takemoto, artist and Associate Professor of Visual Studies, California College of the Arts


Baum Award