War photography or photographers working in areas with little or no photographic freedom isn’t for the faint hearted. What these photographers are recording are very desperate human experiences and the costs of war, and the results can be unpalatable. I am sure the viewer doesn’t see much of what the photographer does.
So, where their photographic efforts in vain?
I would argue that their work, along with many other photographers, remind us of the costs of war – not only to other humans, but to the world around us. They are reflecting back the uncomfortable reality that war isn’t pretty – and at a very great risk to their own lives.
That isn’t to say that other forms of photography don’t challenge the viewer. There is something about war that can be very shocking.
However, shocking photography like war photography can be a double edge sword insofar that viewers can, and possibly have, become immune to the horrors of war. What caught the attention, or even shocked, previous generations may not even get noticed today.
Even with a more immune and media savy generation, I find that that photojournalism, including war photography, still is as relevant today. There is something about the still image that encourages or allows reflection in a way that moving images doesn’t. It captures a single moment in time – even if the viewer doesn’t see it initially, there is always an opportunity to go back and have a look.
And good photographers know how to make a moment memorable.