, , , ,

Continued from Research point (iii) https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/research-point-iii/

The connection over time between the visual character of ‘aftermath of battle’ pictures of the nineteenth century (which was dictated mainly by the photographic techniques available), and those of the twentieth and twenty-first century is more apparent than real: ‘the similarity masks the radical changes that have taken place in our image culture since then’ (Campany, 2003:128).  For example, the sense of stillness in photographs from each era was interpreted differently because nineteenth century viewers had no experience of the moving image; with the invention and proliferation of the moving image in the twentieth century (with the ability to easily ‘freeze frame’) it was assumed, wrongly, that photography’s monopoly on the still image was broken and that as a medium it would be largely replaced by video (Campany, 2003). This supplanting of photography by video has not happened and an example of the evolution of the still image is so called ‘late photography’ (Campany, 2003:130) whereby the setting and scenes of war are photographed after the event. An example is photographer Joel Meyerowitz’s (2006) photographs of the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York (using a sixty year old plate camera) (Campany, 2003:123). Other examples include: Paul Seawright’s ‘Hidden’ (1991); Sophie Ristelhueber’s ‘Fait: Koweit 1991 (Aftermath: Kuwait 1991)’ (1992).

Currently it is possible to argue that on balance images that show the violence and inhumanity of war do have an immediate and beneficial impact on efforts to moderate violence (Cormac513273, 2014). Campany (2003) argues that this may not be true or as straightforward for ‘late’ (or ‘aftermath’) images and again the reason is cultural (or ‘political’), although there is a technological element since ‘today almost a third of all news “photographs” are frame grabs from video and digital sources (Campany, 2003:130), and this proportion can only have increased in the eleven years since.

That technological change does not play a greater role is because ‘photography is what we do with it’ (Campany, 2003:130), it changes without being supplanted by other media, and that change is cultural much more that technological (Campany, 2003:130).  Fred Ritchin (2014) makes a similar point when he describes how the culture for the reception of images of atrocities has changed: photographic evidence that previously would have sparked outrage and demands for action are now met with public suspicion, suspecting either hidden propaganda ‘spin’ or outright fraud.

Thus the images of war whether they are of the ‘hot’ or ‘late/aftermath)’ type (Campany, 2003:124) must take their place (and their chances of ‘survival’) in the cultural milieu of the time.  The difference between the two types of war photography is that the late type demands a knowledge of the social and political context of the images whereas the graphic images of the violence of war only needs the humanity of the viewer to be intact (not ‘numbed’- see above) in order to be engaged with the image and its context.

I consider that both ‘late’ and ‘hot’ images of war can and do have an impact and that neither type inhibits or dilutes the impact of the other. Each can be effective in conveying the inhumanity of an event or a period of warfare. Broadly the context in which the images of each type are viewed differ — ‘late’ photography lending itself to the gallery or book (Bull, 2010:117) and the ‘hot’ type to social media, newspapers and magazines.


Campany (2003) mentions four photographers besides Joel Meyerowitz whose practice incorporates late photography: Willie Doherty, Paul Seawright, Sophie Ristelhueber, and Richard Misrach. In light of the role the war in Vietnam plays in the discussion of war photography it is interesting to note also the work of Vietnamese photographer An-My Le whose practice explores late photography and the Vietnam War (Le, s.d).

A work that inverts the temporal element in aftermath photography is ‘Bonfires’ by John Duncan Duncan (2008), a Northern Irish photographer who imaged the elaborate structures of the Belfast community prior to their traditional firing on one 12th of July.

Also read:

Book review of War/Photography. Images of Armed Conflict and Its Aftermath by Anne Wilkes Tucker et al. Yale University Press, 2012 (Good, 2013)


Bull, Stephen (2010) Photography. London: Routledge

Campany, David (2003) ‘Safety in Numbness: Some Remarks on Problems of “Late Photography”’ In: David Green (ed.) Where Is the Photograph? Brighton: Photoworks/Photoforum. pp. 123-133 [online] At: http://davidcampany.com/safety-in-numbness/ (Accessed on 10-10-14)

Cormac513273 (2014) Research point (iii) [online blog]  At: https://cormac513273.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/research-point-iii/ (Accessed on 10-10-14)

Duncan, John (2008) Bonfires. Brighton: Photoworks

Good, Jennifer (2013) ‘The Equivalence of Suffering’ In: Source 75 pp. 71

Le, An-My (s.d) Viet Nam [online] At: http://www.anmyle.com/Vietnam/1 (Accessed 13.0.14)

Meyerowitz, Joel (2006) Aftermath: World Trade Center Archive. New York: Phaidon Press

Richin, Fred (2014) Syrian Torture Archive: When Photographs of Atrocities Don’t Shock [online] At: http://lightbox.time.com/2014/01/28/when-photographs-of-atrocities-dont-shock/#1 (Accessed on 10-10-14)

Ristelhueber, Sophie (1992) Fait: Koweit 1991 (Aftermath: Kuwait 1991). Paris: Éditions Hazan

Seawright, Paul (1999) Hidden. London: Imperial War Museum