There’s a horribly charming quality to the portraits of foreign leaders in the Power! Photos! Freedom! Exhibition – nothing in the subjects’ expressions that hint at the terrible brutality they would inflict on their populace or the wider world. While we don’t profess to be great geopolitical analysts, it seems a given that anyone who takes power in a military uniform is going to be misbehaving on egregious levels before they’ve had time to make up reasons for all their medals, but what about the unassuming, friendly uncle-type figures in neat suits who turn out to be equally awful bastards?
The benign or smiling faces of some of recent history’s worst specimens of humanity have been collected for the exhibition at Antwerp’s Fotomuseum, as well as some examples of the atrocities committed by or under their regimes. The headmasterly Bashar al-Assad gazes with dispassionate calmness from flags and posters with not a hint of the genocidal tendencies the Syrian ruler has hitherto revealed. Muammar Gaddaffi is seen in various stages of his career, from handsome fledgling ruler, later sitting comfortably while his citizens are being hanged in the street, in another shot the Libyan is in full-blown international statesman mode clutching the hand of an apparently underwhelmed Leonid Brezhnev.
This rather grimly fascinating chronicle of the evolution of evil will remain unmasked until 9th June.