WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath
- Dates: November 8, 2013 through February 2, 2014
- Collections: Photography
WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath
War has been a constant throughout human history, and yet it was not until the invention of photography in the mid-nineteenth century that the stark reality of war entered the lives and homes of people far removed from the field of battle. Millions upon millions of photographs of war have been made by military personnel, commercial photographers, amateurs, and fine art photographers.
The exhibition WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath presents some 400 photographs of conflicts that occurred on six continents over the span of 166 years, from the Mexican-American War in 1846 through the civil war in Libya in 2012. This is not, however, a chronological survey of each war over that span of time. Rather, this landmark exhibition seeks to offer a more comprehensive exploration of the type of images created in any conflict, without regard to era or nationality. As a result, the photographs are not arranged by specific war. Instead, they are arranged according to what might be called the general progression—the “arc”—of every war. The arc of war moves from the instigation of the conflict to the recruitment of troops, their training and embarkation; to the experience of combat itself and the “fog of war”; to the chaotic consequences of battle, with the taking of prisoners and, often, executions and reprisals; to the suffering of the wounded and of refugees; and finally to war’s end, with the return home of the troops, and the establishment of memorials and rituals of remembrance.
There are many perspectives, military and non-military, from which a photograph of armed conflict can be viewed, but all images leave their mark on the way we understand our world. The curators hope that this exhibition will serve as a platform from which meaningful dialogue about human conflict and more extensive research will spring for generations to come.
MEDIA COVERAGE AND DISSEMINATION
“War photographs have always been a distillation of battle marketed for home consumption,” writes the historian Susan Moeller. In the late nineteenth century, newspapers dominated publishing in the United States. Competition for readers was fierce. Bold headlines and sensationalized accounts earned enormous profits for publishers. Photographs, which had to be reproduced as engravings or woodblock prints, were used to sway public opinion.
Photo agencies were established in the mid-nineteenth century. Photographs were first transmitted by telephone or telegraph in the 1920s, and later via radio transmission, allowing images to be sent across oceans and continents in a matter of minutes. Photo agencies such as the Associated Press (AP) and United Press International (UPI) became the main means by which photographs were supplied to publications around the world.
Today, images of conflict are no longer defined by a single force, agency, or publication, but by an increasingly interconnected digital realm. The photography of warfare continues to evolve—the capability to instantly post images on the Internet has collapsed the layers of mediation between photographer and viewer, allowing conflicts in faraway places to be observed back home almost as they take place.
THE ADVENT OF WAR
Events that instigate and provoke war are often surprise attacks. Photographers are unlikely to be present, so images that depict the initial aggressive act are rare. Robert Clark’s photographic sequence of the second plane striking the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was possible only because Clark saw live television coverage of the first plane’s strike and hurried to his building’s roof, which provided a clear view of the towers.
One of the catalysts for the Spanish-American War was the mysterious explosion of the battleship USS Maine in the harbor of Havana, Cuba, in February 1898. There was no way to photograph the 266 US sailors who died, but images of the mast of the Maine rising above the sunken wreck brought the impact of this disaster into American homes and parlors with great power.
Sometimes photographers were assigned to document events intended to provoke war so that the pictures could be used for propaganda. For example, among the many pictures taken by Japanese airmen on December 7, 1941, is War in Hawaiian Water, which shows torpedoes approaching the American ships on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor.
RECRUITMENT, TRAINING, EMBARKATION
In the initial stages of conflict, patriotism often drives military enlistment. Photographs can capture the mix of anticipation and firm resolve in the faces of new recruits, and yet reasons for enlistment other than patriotism are more difficult to convey through photography. Many join for financial reasons—the promise of decent wages, training for future jobs, and veterans’ benefits. In contrast to traditional recruitment, warlords and insurgent armies kidnap men, women, and children to fill their ranks.
The training of troops is generally tightly regulated to meet well-established goals. Recruits must learn to depend on one another and to become members of a unit governed by tradition, rank, command structure, and rules of engagement. They must also learn how to follow orders precisely, immediately, and without question.
The final phase of recruitment is embarkation, with its teary goodbyes to family. In Damon Winter’s Flying Military Class, the interior of an enormous plane is filled to capacity with soldiers in uniform on their way to the front.
The wait before going into the battle itself is unlike the irritating logistical delays that consume the daily life of servicemen and servicewomen. As captured in the photographs in this section, the emotions of those on the brink of combat are diverse, complicated, and personal. They might be restless to see action, but that impatience is usually mixed with other concerns—the possibility of injury or death, of not having sufficient courage, or of failure to provide critical support to their buddies.
The journalist Ernie Pyle described his feelings as he waited on the deck of a transport ship the night before landing in Sicily on July 9, 1943:
Even the dizziest of us knew that before long many of us stood an excellent chance of being in this world no more. I don’t believe one of us was afraid of the physical part of dying. That isn’t the way it is. The emotion is rather one of almost desperate reluctance to give up the future. I suppose that’s splitting hairs and that it really all comes under the heading of fear. Yet somehow there is a difference …
—Ernie Pyle, Brave Men, 1945
PATROL AND TROOP MOVEMENT
This section includes images documenting patrols by all five types of US military service—Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Air Force—as well as photographs of the movement of troops and supplies. Combat patrols are detachments of ground, sea, or air forces sent into hostile terrain for observation, inspection, destruction, or security, usually for several hours, but occasionally for days.
Patrol units can be as small as an individual ship or a few men or planes, and as large as squadrons of aircraft, or ships, or an entire battalion of ground troops. The units can face considerable danger, which is shared by the photographers accompanying them.
This section is devoted to images of armed confrontations between ground, air, and naval forces in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Given the slowness of mid-nineteenth-century photographic processes and the bulkiness of the necessary equipment, military action could not be photographed until the invention of faster films and cameras that did not require tripods or other supports.
By the late nineteenth century, it became technically possible to capture action with still photographs. The distribution of photographs was also transformed by the invention of the halftone process, in 1882, which allowed accurate copies to be reproduced in magazines and newspapers and disseminated to audiences eager to follow the events of war.
The invention of movies further intensified the public demand for images of war. As early as 1899, combat films were advertised as “war from the comfort of your chair.” Movies have continued to shape what the public expects to see in conflict photographs. Images of battle charges, hand-to-hand combat, interiors of submarines, and ground assaults are all staples of fictionalized war. Yet such images are virtually impossible for a still photographer to capture. Other kinds of combat action photography, though possible, are difficult and dangerous to obtain, and thus are rare.
The images included in this section are primarily those made when the photographer had at least some cover from weapons fire, while in planes, vehicles, trenches, or buildings, on ships, or behind natural obstacles or manmade fortifications.
Rescues can be as direct as the immediate action of an individual pulling someone from danger and offering aid or as complicated as operations involving entire ground, air, or sea units taking place over days or even weeks. This section focuses primarily on photographs featuring rescues of individual combatants and civilians.
Training and preparation are critical to the success of rescues. Locating those in distress complicates the process, particularly if they are caught behind enemy lines or adrift at sea. Dangers to the rescuers are also ever present. During the Vietnam War, for example, the US search and rescue forces saved 3,883 lives at the cost of the lives of 71 rescuers and 45 aircraft.
The images in this section draw largely from pictures by American photographers, who would have been aware of the public desire to see acts of heroism and humanity. The clarity and power of such photographs helped shape public perceptions of World War II that have continued to survive in fiction and in films such as Saving Private Ryan (1998).
AFTERMATH: GRIEF AND BURIALS
The aftermath of a battle begins as soon as one side is in complete possession of the battlefield. The wounded must be evacuated and given medical treatment; prisoners interrogated; the dead counted and buried, when time permits; and residual munitions and arms collected, repurposed, or destroyed.
Grief for fallen comrades pervades the aftermath of battle. This section includes Al Chang’s photograph of a grief-stricken infantryman in Korea being comforted by a fellow soldier. In contrast, another serviceman in the background shows no emotion as he uses name tags to create a report of the recently killed. Interviews with veterans suggest that such detachment is a form of self-preservation.
Military administrators understand the importance of rituals in relieving trauma experienced by troops. Whenever possible, the dead are given military funerals. Depending on the situation, temporary burials may take place on or near the battlefield, using simple wooden markers, and are moved after the war to more substantially planned cemeteries. Some countries always bury their dead in the country in which they were slain; others bring bodies home, or give families a choice.
AFTERMATH: DESTRUCTION OF PROPERTY
In the wake of battle, civilian survivors as well as military personnel must confront the consequences of widespread destruction in a war zone. Through close range and bird’s-eye views, the images in this section capture a range of perspectives on the decimation of cities, homes, and infrastructure.
In his photograph dated October 29, 1917, James Frank Hurley portrays the eerie reduction of Chateau Wood near Ypres, Belgium, to denuded sticks in a shell-cratered field. In the foreground, five Australian soldiers cross a makeshift track over pools of mud.
Richard Peter made thousands of photographs of the demolished city of Dresden, which was devastated by a firestorm, resulting from Allied air raids in 1945, during which thousands died. Peter’s iconic panorama of Dresden destroyed was shot from the city hall tower, and features a sculpted male figure overlooking the city like a saint in mourning.
Christie Spengler’s heart-wrenching picture of the rubble of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, after its destruction by the Khmer Rouge shows survivors sifting through rubble. The dust and smoke were so dense that day became night. Spengler describes her approach to photographing the aftermath of war: “Dead don’t interest me, only the survivors.”
EXHAUSTION AND SHELL SHOCK
In conflict situations, food and rest are essential. Both Marine photographer Corporal Robert Attebury and photojournalist David Guttenfelder made pictures of troops fighting exhaustion while searching for the enemy.
Attebury, who was serving in Iraq, photographed comrades who preferred sleep to food during a short break in a bombed palace. Guttenfelder, who was embedded with a Marine unit in Afghanistan, photographed soldiers getting their first full night of sleep after marching for six days. They had dug shallow fighting holes in the dark, knowing that they would feel “safer—and sleep better—protected by those few inches of dirt.”
The “thousand-yard stare” seen in many post-battle portraits of soldiers is sometimes symptomatic of momentary battle fatigue, but can also be the first sign of a longer-lasting condition known as shell shock, or, since the 1970s, as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Photographer Don McCullin, who sufferers from PTSD, said in an interview, “It’s incomprehensible the way human beings can slaughter each other in front of you. And you take it home with you.”
Felice Beato made the first known photographs of battlefield death, from the interior of Fort Taku during the Second Opium War in China (1860). Because of the long exposure time required, he had to plead that the bodies not be removed until he could make the pictures.
During the US Civil War, there were no official restrictions against photographing either the Union or Confederate dead. But, after the Civil War, military policies in many Western countries quickly evolved to officially forbid photographing the dead of one’s own forces on the battlefield or sometimes even in coffins.
Such policies evolved to prevent inflicting additional pain on the families of the deceased, and also to ward off general public demoralization, which could diminish support for the war effort.
The photographs in this section record the sentencing or execution of combatants, prisoners, purported spies, civilians, policemen, military officers, and the heads of governments. Executions are part of the system of killing in war and frequently occur as power shifts from one ruling authority to another.
Combatants were sometimes shot or hung by opposing soldiers who lacked the time, the official procedures, or the inclination to handle prisoners of war. Some civilians were caught in indiscriminate roundups or were victims of genocide.
Most prisoners did not receive a trial, and those who did were often denied the benefits of stringent collection of evidence, legal representation, or the opportunity to appeal. Even in established militaries, wartime trials may involve rushed preparations, hearsay evidence, and foregone conclusions. In other instances, the “juries” were mobs motivated by vengeance.
Governments, quickly realizing how photographs could be used as a weapon of war, promoted the distribution of pictures of the executed enemy—to gloat and to warn against future dissent.
Some of the greatest scientific advancements related to war have been in armaments, transport—and medicine. Military doctors have developed many techniques and procedures that are now standard in the field of trauma medicine, on and off the battlefield. These include the use of splints and tourniquets, ambulances and non-physician emergency medical personnel, the tiered staging of emergency medical care, and methods for transporting blood.
Techniques in plastic surgery and prosthetics also advanced as a result of wars, as did the development of new medicines, such as antibiotics, and new medical equipment.
Triage, or “the division into three,” was first conceived in the Napoleonic wars and systematically introduced in World War I by the French army. According to military historian John Keegan, triage required medics and doctors “to send on those [who] could stand the journey, and to choose, from the group remaining, which men were worth subjecting to serious surgery and which must be left to die.” With improvements in methods of transport and medical treatment, the number of those “left to die” has diminished, but “this extraordinary decision still must be made every day in war.”
The photographs in this section cover medical care from the point of injury, through the various stages of treatment, to long-term recovery at home.
During World War II, the Anglo-American Supply Headquarters in London displayed a version of this fifteenth-century proverb about the consequences of not ordering proper supplies in a timely manner:
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the knight was lost,
For want of a knight the battle was lost,
So a kingdom was lost—all for want of a nail.
In the modern age, the size of armies, navies, and air forces has grown exponentially. “The scope of their operations has expanded, the complexity of their equipment has increased geometrically, and the quantity of supplies they consume has become all but insatiable,” writes the military historian Jeff Hunt, “while the number of personnel assigned to perform duties associated with managing, shipping, maintaining, and distributing the logistical requirements of armed forces has swelled until more personnel are occupied in these tasks than those of actual combat.” The photographs in this section address various aspects of this vast, complex support system.
RECONNAISSANCE, RESISTANCE, SABOTAGE
Before a military campaign begins, diverse intelligence is gathered in ways ranging from conversations between spies and their sources to extensive observation and documentation of terrain, enemy armament, and troop strength. Known images of war resistance activities and covert acts of sabotage are rare as they pose a danger to both the photographer and the participants.
This section focuses on the observation and investigation of enemies and the secret activities of service members, spies, and resistance forces. These photographs also demonstrate the strategic and technical evolution of the military’s observation tools critical for reconnaissance. Alexander Gardner’s Group of Guides for the Army of the Potomac documents Union scouts who posed as Confederate soldiers and sympathizers to gather information. The armies of World War I made hundreds of thousands of aerial photographs from balloons and from planes, primarily for surveying enemy territory.
New technologies, many of them funded by the military, have changed the nature of reconnaissance operations. Binoculars, goggles, and other devices that allow nighttime vision were introduced during World War II. The US Air Force prioritized developing a reconnaissance satellite in 1955, and the Central Intelligence Agency began a similar program in 1958, shortly after the launch of the Soviet Union’s first Sputnik satellite in October 1957.
Today, anyone with an Internet connection can download detailed images of most locations on the earth. In response, some countries completely block access to the Google Earth website, and others have censored images of high-security installations.
PRISONERS OF WAR
The laws of war as laid out in the 1949 version of the Geneva Convention are internationally accepted but have often been breached. Intended to regulate aspects of how armed conflict is conducted and to judge those who violate its provisions, it specifically protects civilians, health and aid workers, and ministers of faith, as well as military personnel who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as the wounded, the sick, and prisoners of war.
The term “prisoner of war” initially applied to captured members of regular military forces but has evolved to include insurgents, civilians who take up arms, and noncombatants associated with a military force. In practice, however, noncombatants and civilians are often captured, imprisoned, raped, tortured, and killed during armed conflict, and the conditions and provisions approved for prisoners are violated.
The subjects of photographs in this section are portrayed at the moment of capture, in transition between capture and imprisonment, during incarceration, during torture, and just before or at the moment of liberation.
CAMP LIFE: DAILY ROUTINE
A US Civil War soldier once wrote to his wife that soldiering is 99 percent boredom and 1 percent sheer terror. Ideally, actual combat occupies a very small proportion of time for anyone engaged in armed conflict; much more time is spent engaged in other activities to address the spirit, fitness, and skills of the forces.
Equipment is essential to readiness, and the daily maintenance of a base, airfield, or ship is an important part of military service. Images in this section include an engineer and other officers inspecting the dents sustained in the gun turret of the USS Monitor during the Battle of Hampton Roads, and sailors clearing ice from the deck of the British Royal Navy ship HMS Scylla. In combat zones, brief lulls may occur during which troops can relax, while essentially still on alert. The research for this exhibition uncovered many images of baths cleverly improvised, a luxury in the field for any soldier.
The photographs in this section encompass leisure time spent on posts, bases, or ships, as well as images made during short-duration leaves off base and at home. Military historian Jeff Hunt refers to these breaks as the “civilian inside the soldier returning to the life they had before.” Military services regard downtime and personal leave as an investment in the well-being of their forces that will improve mission performance.
Weekend passes are popular but infrequently available to those in combat zones or, for instance, to those serving on ships such as nuclear submarines, which may be out of port for months. Although in military terminology “rest and recuperation” (R&R) refers specifically to military leave from combat zones, the general public has adopted R&R to refer to any respite from stressful situations.
Whether on a short or extended leave, military personnel seek to distance themselves from their wartime experiences and turn to letters from home, exercise, games, food, music, companionship, and other forms of entertainment and release.
The photographs in this section focus on civilians caught amid warring parties. Faced with the oncoming enemy, rumored or documented massacres, bombings, food shortages, destroyed shelters, and other horrors, people flee with few, if any, belongings.
Most conflict photographers have made pictures of refugees, and certain photographers refrain from photographing actual conflicts in order to concentrate on drawing attention to those injured, killed, or displaced. Some of these images capture what it looks like to be in flight, starving, ill, frightened, and desperate, while others portray the dignity of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming hardship.
NGOs (nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations) like the Red Cross support photographers who want to address subjects relevant to the organizations’ humanitarian purposes. Sometimes NGOs commission photographs, but more often they supply information and recommend safe housing and contacts in conflict zones.
The spiritual well-being of troops is as much a part of a military commander’s responsibility as their health, clothing, and food. Among the earliest accounts of a leader addressing soldiers’ spiritual life is from the fourth century, by Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, in which he records the practice of the Roman Emperor Constantine, who, as one historian puts it, “gave Christian soldiers given times off to attend Sunday services and compelled the rest to attend a parade at which a nondenominational, monotheistic prayer was recited.”
Eusebius also wrote of military chaplains being assigned to specific troops. In modern forces representing multicultural societies, the term chaplain refers not only to Christian ministers but to military personnel from a variety of religious backgrounds.
Photographers have captured the organized and individual ways that faith permeates military life. This section includes four photographs of religious services being conducted for combat troops and two photographs of religious figures who risked their lives in conflict situations. Most of the images address individual servicemen or civilians professing their faith and seeking divine aid.
Iwo Jima, one of the most critical campaigns for the US victory in the Pacific, holds a prominent place in histories, literature, and film. A vast visual archive exists from the campaign. Each of the three participating Marine divisions had approximately thirty assigned military cameramen, including motion-picture cameramen and still photographers. Photojournalists and photographers from the other armed services also covered the campaign.
The range of pictures made at Iwo Jima covers almost all of the categories in this exhibition, including reconnaissance and support, the fight, prisoners of war, and remembrance. Some of these photographs were immediately disseminated by the military and by news agencies; others were sent by post or came home with servicemen and have never been exhibited or published previously.
The battle of Iwo Jima resulted in one of the most iconic images of war and in the history of photography—Joe Rosenthal’s Old Glory Goes Up on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, made on February 23, 1945. The triumphant image of a flag unfurling on foreign soil provided a badly needed boost to morale both in the States and on the battlefield.
Civilians living in the midst of conflict may lose their possessions, shelter, and sources of food and water. For these civilians, the very real threat of personal injury, mutilation, torture, and rape is always present. They may die themselves, be left to grieve the loss of family and friends, or witness the slaughter of everyone in their village or neighborhood. As conflict continues, these vulnerable civilians watch helplessly as their way of life is destroyed. The effects of mental and physical injuries inflicted on civilians as well as combatants may last for the rest of their lives.
The photographs in this section portray hardships, injuries, anxiety, and grief experienced by civilians during and long after conflicts; the deprivations suffered by refugees and displaced persons; and rallies in support of, and protests against, war.
Other civilians in a nation at war may live far removed from combat. Their direct experience of armed conflict is limited; their daily lives may be largely unchanged, except for anxieties about loved ones and the rationing of food and services.
Both civilian and combatant children are maimed and killed during armed conflicts. They see death and cause death. They live as prisoners and as refugees.
Some children learn to cope with the long-term effects of their wartime experiences, while others are never able to process what they have seen and done.
This section of the exhibition presents portraits of children emulating those who serve in the military, and it also includes a portrait of a child soldier. The remaining images address the range of traumatic experiences endured by children during times of war, including life in internment camps, personal injury, watching family members die, witnessing executions, and surviving as orphans.
Traditionally, photo-essays, or picture stories, consist of a sequenced series of images focusing on a single topic with minimal explanatory text. This section of the exhibition features selections from two photo-essays: Larry Burrows’s One Ride with Yankee Papa 13, published in Life magazine, April 16, 1965; and Todd Heisler’s Final Salute, published in the Rocky Mountain News, November 11, 2005. Both communicate the experience of wartime loss and highlight the potency of the photo-essay structure.
On March 31, 1965, Burrows documented a mission aboard a helicopter called Yankee Papa 13 (YP13), whose guns were manned by 21-year-old Marine Lance Corporal James C. Farley. Burrows’s fourteenpage story begins with an image of a group briefing next to one of Farley, his confidence high, carrying machine guns to the chopper. In the final image of the story, Farley covers his face in grief over colleagues killed on the mission.
In 2005, Todd Heisler and writer Jim Sheeler spent almost a year following Major Steve Beck, site commander of Marine Air Control Squadron 23 at Buckley Air Force Base. Heisler’s photographs and Sheeler’s accompanying text offer vivid glimpses into Major Beck’s dedication to the families he serves and to his duties, which range from receiving caskets at the airport, to returning personal possessions, and, upon request, standing guard throughout the night with a widow who wishes to stay with her husband’s coffin.
WAR'S END: VICTORY AND DEFEAT
Wars are often assigned precise dates for when they began and ended, but complexities and ambiguous situations often leave such dates open to debate, depending on allegiances, agendas, and who writes the histories. As fighting winds down, political and diplomatic forces begin to assert themselves and leaders become concerned with shaping the postwar world.
The photographs in this section feature various stages in the cessation of war, including decisive battles, mass evacuations, agreements between generals, the negotiation of peace treaties, and the signs and celebrations of victory.
WAR'S END: RETRIBUTION AND HOMECOMING
Immediately after combat ceases, vengeance and fear as well as joy and grief drive public responses. When war ends, victors often seek retribution against their former oppressors. Retributions can range from severe punishments to massacres. Among such acts photographed after World War II were French citizens shaving the heads of women who had given aid or comfort to the enemy, and concentration camp survivors identifying those in the camps who had been informers to the Gestapo.
The experience of homecoming differs sharply for soldiers and civilians depending on the outcome of the conflict. Countless photographs have been made of troops spilling out of trains, boats, and planes into the arms of loved ones. But not all homecomings are celebrations. For instance, in 1995 American photographer Ron Haviv photographed a grieving Bosnian soldier standing on what was believed to be a mass grave outside his destroyed home. Of the sixty-nine people who once lived there, including all the members of his family, he was the lone survivor.
The building of public memorials provides catharsis for the living while honoring the dead. The photographs in this section document various methods of memorializing those who fought and those who died.
Historians have noted a dramatic increase in memorials in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; what is sometimes called “statue mania” led to the construction of thousands of war memorials across the United States. Demand for memorials surged in the 1910s and 1920s in the US and abroad as veterans of conflicts aged and as the nations they had defended recovered economically.
Portraits are the most common picture made in wartime. Departing service members sit for pictures to give to family and friends. When they enter the military, a portrait is made as part of induction for identification purposes. These portraits are also available to the soldiers, who trade them with their comrades and, increasingly in recent years, post them online and through social media.
War is a human experience, and portraits give a human face to war. Found portraits of anonymous men and women in uniform evoke questions: What did they do for a living as civilians, or what was their role in conflict? Did they make it through the war? The portraits included here range from images of world leaders, such as Winston Churchill, to individual and group photos of non-commissioned troops. Some sat in portrait studios and others were captured by photojournalists covering a conflict for magazines or newspapers. Many photographers move in close, framing the head and shoulders to emphasize the individual features of their subjects and to provide the viewer a visual reminder that it is ordinary people who fight wars.
War memorials are public commemorations and expressions of community gratitude, grief, and patriotism. In contrast, photographic remembrances originate from individual motivations.
Photographic journals record personal activities and reflections. The journals featured in this section were compiled mostly onsite, contemporary with the experiences, and then released for public view.
Other photographic remembrances are initiated as personal research into aspects of specific wars the photographer believes to be unknown, forgotten, or misrepresented. The photographs presented here were created postwar, some as many as six decades after the conflict, and intended to shape or create public awareness.
How does one photographically access past events in order to understand them and possibly bring them to life for others? Portraits of combatants, civilian heroes, and victims are common subjects. Some photographers investigate historical and political issues by depicting contemporary or historical sites. Other photographers stage scenes, photograph them, or choose to redirect the meaning of famous wartime photographs by altering the original image. These transformations of remembrance often introduce new references that shift the meaning of the image.
In Flanders Fields
While serving in World War I, Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, a Canadian physician, wrote this poem after presiding over the funeral of a friend and fellow soldier. Since the poem’s publication in London in 1915, poppies have become a widespread symbol for those who gave their lives in war.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Chronology of Depicted Conflicts
2010–present Conflicts related to the Arab Spring
2008 South Ossetia War
2007–08 Kenyan Crisis
2007–09 Tuareg Rebellion
2006 Israel-Hezbollah War
2004–present Insurgency in South Thailand
2003–11 Iraq War
2003–present War in Darfur
2001–present War in Afghanistan
2000–05 Second Intifada
1999–2003 Second Liberian Civil War
1999–2009 Second Chechen War
1999–2003 Ituri Conflict
1998–2003 Second Congo War
1996–2001 Afghan Civil War
1994–96 First Chechen War
1994 Rwandan Genocide
1992–95 Bosnian War
1991–2002 Sierra Leone Civil War
1991–present Somali Civil War
1990–91 Persian Gulf War
1990 Zulu/African National Congress Conflict
1988–94 Nagorno–Karabakh War
1987–93 First Intifada
1982–2000 South Lebanon Conflict
1982 Falklands Conflict
1980–88 Iran-Iraq War
1980–92 Salvadoran Civil War
1979–89 Soviet War in Afghanistan
1977–79 Iranian Revolution
1975–90 Lebanese Civil War
1976–83 Argentine Civil War
1975–2002 Angolan Civil War
1974–79 Khmer Rouge Control of Cambodia
1971 Bangladesh Liberation War
c.1968–98 “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland
1967–70 Nigerian Civil War
c.1964–present Colombian Armed Conflict
1961–79 Nicaraguan Revolution
1960–c.1964 Venezuelan Communist Insurgency
1960–64 Congo Crisis
1956 Hungarian Revolution
c.1955–75 Vietnam War
1953–59 Cuban Revolution
1950–53 Korean War
1946–54 French Indochina War
1946–91 Cold War
1939–45 World War II
1936–39 Spanish Civil War
c.1931–45 Second Sino-Japanese War
1919 Third Anglo-Afghan War
1916–18 Arab Revolt
1914–18 World War I
1910–c.1920 Mexican Revolution
1904–05 Russo-Japanese War
1899–1913 Moro Rebellion
1899–1902 Philippine-American War
1898 Spanish-American War
1897–98 Tirah Expedition (Indian Frontier War)
1881–89 Mahdist War (Anglo-Sudan War)
1878–80 Second Anglo-Afghan War
1870–71 The Siege and Commune of Paris
1861–67 End of the Second Mexican Empire
1861–65 United States Civil War
1857–58 India’s First War of Independence
1856–60 Second Opium War (Second Anglo-Chinese War)
1853–56 Crimean War
1848 French Revolution of 1848
1846–48 Mexican-American War