CLIO mr brice - page 35

The Uses and Effects of
Conflict Photography
Although the authorities during
WW1 limited the number of
authorised photographers on the
front line, as well as censoring
some of the official photographs
taken, to attempt to manage public
perceptions of the war, these
restrictions did not apply to the
ordinary soldiers, sailors and airmen
who carried personal cameras. As a
result, a great deal of photographs
from the early years of WWI came
from the soldiers themselves.
One notable example of this is
the photographic documentation
of the ‘Christmas Truce’ of 1914
(2), offering a visual glimpse into
humanity amidst the ravages of
the war, a reminder of the ability
of photos to document both the
compassion as well as destruction
which accompanies conflicts.
The photos from the Second World
War, commencing just 21 years after
the end of the first, were once again
slightly different in their subject.
Whilst photography continued to
capture soldiers in action, it also
started to record the effects of the
conflict on civilians. Photographs
of combative events continued
to be taken, such as the D-Day
landings in June 1944, with hordes
of soldiers wading through the sea
and charging up the Normandy
beaches. A particularly powerful
snapshot of WWII combat also
lies in a photo of Soviet soldier,
Alexey Yeremenko (3), hand aloft
and armed only with a handgun,
leading his men into battle with a
shout. The image demonstrates the
unique ability of photography, to
capture an individual at a decisive
moment, on the brink of life and
death. The poignancy of the image is
heightened by the fact it is believed
Yeremenko died only minutes later.
However, photography during
WWII also depicted the effects of
the conflict on those not directly
involved in it. An example of this
can be found in the photos which
emerged from the Blitz, an event
in which ordinary people suddenly
found themselves surrounded by
the destructive conflict which until
late 1940, had remained relatively
foreign to the
average Briton.
This damaging
aspect of the
war is recorded
in a number of
photographs
from the time,
with one
particularly
memorable
example being
a photo of a
young girl in
a bloodstained
shirt, crying as she is carried by a
concerned air raid warden amidst
the rubble (4). However, photos
from the time also act as means of
communicating the humanity and
‘Blitz spirit’ which continued, with
photos of temporary communities
emerging with underground stations
being used as air raid shelters, or a
beaming woman emerging from a
grimy, bomb-damaged house in a
spotless wedding dress.
Fig 2. 1914 Christmas Truce
Fig 3. Soviet Soldier Alexey
Yeremenko
Fig 4. Aftermath of the Blitz
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