What is it good for?

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Milton Keynes Gallery brings another first to its walls this week – with the launch of the first major solo show in the UK by An-My Lê.

Lê is a Vietnamese-American photographer who uses her art to explore the experience and the culture of conflict.

It’s a subject as complex as it is emotive, and Lê has experienced life in a war-torn area herself.

She was born in Vietnam in 1960. Fleeing Saigon while a teenager in 1975, she was airlifted to safety shortly before the end of the war, settling in the United States.

In 2012 she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur Genius Award, one of many achievements received for her work.

What makes Lê’s collections so engrossing – aside from knowing that her eyes have seen conflict first hand – is the remarkable access she has been granted to the American military.

Not just on one occasion, but again and again over long periods of time.

She was allowed onto the 29 Palms marine base in the Californian desert, shortly after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, and her show at MK G also includes the most comprehensive showing so far of Events Ashore.

This incredible work has been 10 years in the making, with Lê spending months on the oceans, travelling with the American armed forces. It explores the US military’s global operations and the consequences of war seen through the more sedate moments away from the fighting.

Her pictures take you to the hub of the issue, although Lê keeps a distance from those she records on film...’In order to create nuanced scenes that hover between documentary, fiction, play and battle.

‘The resulting images combine a classical beauty with a quiet and intense emotion, driven both by personal experience, and by empathy.’

The incredible vision that makes the exhibition entire opens for public view tomorrow, and runs all the way through to November 23.

Admission is free.