Turning the camera back


General Photography

Over the past few years, especially since the US invaded Iraq, you’ve seen lots of reports of and by “courageous” war photographers. Not here - as I made clear in the past I regard most so-called photo journalism from war zones as nothing else but pornography.

Things weren’t always this way, though. The Vietnam War has been cited as being similar to Iraq, with lots of people claiming those similarities are just bogus. And they might have a point: Have you noticed that - unlike for the Vietnam War - our view of the soldiers fighting there now centers around a sort of heroism, which - at best! - smacks of a mid-20th Century aesthetic? I think as long as all debate about the war is stifled even visually - with casualties, civilian or military, our own or “foreign”, being hidden from view - the Iraq War is not like the Vietnam War.

And, most crucially, it is painfully obvious that what many people claim is simply not true: The claim is that photo journalism from war zones makes people more aware of the violence and, thus, makes war less likely. Is there anybody who would be seriously willing to argue that this is the case?

In any case, one of the main photographers during the Vietnam War, Philip Jones Griffiths, has just published a book called Vietnam at Peace, and he is telling the BBC about the book and what he thinks about the Iraq War and photojournalism there.