27 July 2010

Changing Conventions in War Photography (2)

So, I thought perhaps I was being too hasty in talking about the emergence of a new convention in war photography, one that places a premium on the 'human interest' aspect of American troops. You know, shots of the military personnel being just guys. So I had a quick, admittedly unsystematic look. The top two images below made it into the pictures of the day at the Lens blog at The New York Times last week. The top one, though, I lifted from The Washington Post who had also published it. The rest were easy enough to find on-line. Note - three different agencies, a half dozen different photographers. And we end up with the soldier in tee shirt and shorts, again.

Life in a war zone can mean improvising, including for exercise,
as illustrated by a U.S. soldier from the 1st Squadron, 71st Cavalry
at a forward operating base in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan.
The number of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan is expected to
peak at 150,000 in coming weeks. July 19th, 2010
(Manpreet Romana/agence France-presse Via Getty Images).

A U.S. soldier watches an Afghan movie on TV while relaxing at
Combat Outpost Nolen, an outlying base for the 2nd Brigade of the
101st Airborne Division, in the volatile Arghandab Valley, in Kandahar,
Afghanistan, Wednesday, July 21, 2010. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd).

A United States Marine from Bravo Company of the 1st
Battalion of the 2nd Marines eats watermelon as he rests
following a gunbattle as part of an operation to clear the
area of insurgents near Musa Qaleh, in northern Helmand
Province, southern Afghanistan, Friday, July 23, 2010.
(AP Photo/Kevin Frayer).

U.S Army First Lieutenant Sean Snook from Concord,
Massachusetts, and Alpha Company, 4th Brigade combat
team,1-508, 82nd parachute infantry regiment tees off
at FOB Bullard in Zabul province, southern Afghanistan,
February 12, 2010. (REUTERS/Baz Ratner ).

A U.S. Marine throws a football at Delaram base in
Nimroz province, southern Afghanistan January 24,
2010. (REUTERS/Marko Djurica) January 24, 2010

Spc. James Lollis, right, who was on his way to the gym, and an unidentified
soldier from the 2nd Battalion 12th
Infantry take cover as incoming fire
hits inside Command
Outpost Michigan at the Pech River Valley
in Kunar
Province, Afghanistan, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2009.
(AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills).

There are, of course, many, many pictures of American troops, mostly in full combat gear, on patrol - sometimes they are engaged in firefights, sometimes they are menacing Afghans of various descriptions, sometimes they are talking to groups of kids or even kicking a soccer ball with them. These images are familiar enough. So the sorts of images I've lifted here are not exactly crowding out those more 'standard' images. However, with the exception of the occasional photograph of marines mourning the death of a colleague, images of death and destruction - the actual consequences of war for Afghans and the U.S. military - are exceedingly rare. In fact, other than the image of Joshua Bernard that generated so much controversy last fall, I don't recall seeing any. That may not be intended by the photographers who are covering the war, but it surely is politically convenient.

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Blogger Stan B. said...

One certainly didn't see so many of these "human interest" soldier images during Nam- guess those guys were too busy covering the actual war. These human interest sidenotes are important, but only in context to the broader picture of the actual war and its most dire consequences- exactly what we've been denied thus far...

27 July, 2010 14:30  
Blogger Michael Friberg said...

While I understand where you are coming from here, after having talked to a few soldiers who have served in these wars the over arching theme seems to be intense boredom and downtime. If then, what is going on in these places is 90 percent sitting around and 10 percent death and destruction, maybe the ratios are "right" in the news media. I am just playing devils advocate here because I do know that the U.S. news media tends to be willing to show death and destruction as long as the victims are brown and I do think we need more honest portrails of war.

28 July, 2010 11:24  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

M ~ Sitting around doesn't kill people, marines and soldiers on patrol with guns and grenades etc., kill people (to paraphrase a well know political slogan); I'd bee MUCH happier if these guys were tossing the ball, eating melon and hitting the links here stateside. Much less chance that they'd be killing Afghan civilians. ~ J

28 July, 2010 18:41  
Blogger glenleroy said...

These soldiers prove the true spirit of life. We must not forget to live life irrespective of the circumstances prevailing in our life.
Pure Hoodia

08 September, 2010 00:16  

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