War Photography

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 “Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel?”  ― Duane Michals

Our understanding of War has been profoundly affected by the invention of photography. This can be seen through the use of different approaches though which photographers have demonstrated their perspective of how they think war can be presented through the medium of photography. They have depicted both the short and long term societal consequences in addition to exploring how different styles of work influence the viewer’s emotive response to the picture. This essay aims to compare, contrast and evaluate two different approaches to documenting War through photography. The first approach being the ‘shock’ element of ‘in the moment’ detail, and the second a more meditative look at the after effects of War and its contribution to society. Many photographers in the past believed in what Henry Cartier Bresson called ‘The decisive moment’. A moment in which everything comes together to produce the perfect instant; a moment which will never happen again. They assumed that to capture a ‘great’ photograph, it must be taken at the right time and the right place. Bresson claimed; "The decisive moment, it is the

simultaneous recognition, in a fraction
of a second, of the significance of an
event as well as the precise organization
of forms which gives that event
its proper expression."
Yet there is another approach to capturing the event, even if it is years after that ‘decisive moment’. Post-event photography can be just as, if not more evocative to the viewer. This is extremely relevant to how war has been photographed. Take for example, The American Civil War and the photojournalist Matthew Brady. Planning to document the war on a grand scale, he organized a corps of photographers to follow the troops in the field. Mathew Brady, through his many paid assistants, took...
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