War Photographer

War_Photographer_posterBefore we analyse another poem by Carol Ann Duffy, entitled “War Photographer”, I would like you to watch the following two videos and take notes as to the difficulties of being a war photographer, the important lesson they learn about the war that cannot be possibly rendered or disclosed by a photograph. In your opinion what is the objective of a museum dedicated to war photography? What role can role photography play in denouncing and thus opposing wars?

War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy

In his darkroom he is finally alone
with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows.
The only light is red and softly glows,
as though this were a church and he
a priest preparing to intone a Mass.
Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.

He has a job to do. Solutions slop in trays
beneath his hands which did not tremble then
though seem to now. Rural England. Home again
to ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel,
to fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat.

Something is happening. A stranger’s features
faintly start to twist before his eyes,
a half-formed ghost. He remembers the cries
of this man’s wife, how he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust.

A hundred agonies in black-and-white
from which his editor will pick out five or six
for Sunday’s supplement. The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between bath and pre-lunch beers.
From aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns a living and they do not care.

What do you think of this creative video? Do you find it effective? Does it help the understanding of the poem?

Now listen to the analysis and explanation of the poem. Were you right in your considerations? What are the aspects you could not grasp by yourself? Why?

If you were asked to write a catchy phrase to summarize the core concept of this poem, what would it be?

Why do you think I decided to conclude our project on World War One with this poem?
Do you approve of this choice? Why (not)?

Have fun with this quiz!



68 Replies to “War Photographer”

  1. colours are our lives

    green, as the gay grass where the wind plays
    blue, as the starry sky above us
    red, as our young mother’s smiling lips.

    colours are my life

    green, as the soldier’s uniform
    blue, as my only way to escape “home”
    red, as my widowed mother’s lips.

    black, as the end

  2. Everyday and Every night are always the same,
    mud, shots, rain, screams, death Every where.
    I cannot move, I cannot breathe,
    I cannot see anything beyond my place.

    When will this nonsense end?
    When will I meet my lover again?
    What shall I do if all this pain never stops?
    I have no answer, but I am not hopeless.

  3. Hello God my old friend
    I want to talk to you again.
    ‘cause I’m all alone in a train
    Bringing me back home full of pain
    My mates are not with me today
    Where are they?
    You chose to take them with you
    Why didn’t you take me too?
    Why were you so cruel to me?
    Even if I am alive, this does not mean I am living
    This does not mean I know happiness
    This does not mean I am free.
    In the trenches I saw horrible things
    I wished I had wings
    I wished I was You
    To make my wish come true.
    Oh my Lord
    I hope you will take care of my mates
    The ones you didn’t give another chance
    Oh my Lord
    I will ask you this everyday
    Till you tell me they have become flowers in May.

  4. The First World War was insane
    a lot of lives were lost, an unbearable pain
    Many guns were used, if you put them down they would form a long chain
    Soldiers were down in the mud
    everybody with a lot of problems, but sustain each other like in a brotherhood
    Fighting for different reasons: some to give their families support,
    some people didn`t even want to go to war, risking every day to go to martial court
    Even though they fight for their great nation
    people for the first time they hate it, and start the act of commemoration.
    In every church they ring a bell
    religious people honor the dead giving their last salute with a `Farewell`
    A lot of good men perished
    but nobody will forget the day on which the Christmas spirit
    prevailed, and all generals failed
    in the ongoing of war
    they all understood what they were meant for
    and that is to be brothers
    putting their anxietes to the side and helping one another.

  5. Too much pain

    Who can endure all the pain?
    Who may suffer so much?
    Who can look into the eyes of a friend who died?
    Who can shoot a man with the same fear as yours?

    It is too much!
    It is too much for any human being!
    He’ll never see his family,
    He’ll never walk again,
    He’ll neverplay with his children,
    He’ll never forget.

    They told him that he would become a hero,
    But a shell blew it all over.
    There remains just a stupid medal
    And the image of all the pain he was through.

    1. There are not more words to add. Your poem denounces any war. It is a proclamation of peace after the evidence of the uselessness of fighting a war.

  6. No one knows what human rights are, only because we all take it for granted.
    We live every day with our rights, so we get used to it. But they did not exist always and they are Not existing everywhere. The human being had to fight to get this rights. MASSACRES. PERSECUTIONS. INJUSTICES. Our ancestors struggled to afford this lives for us. So we can’t waste what they did, we just must do what they did for future’s progeny.

    1. I fully agree when you claim that we should be grateful for what our ancestors did for us. For example, if the suffragettes had not fought for women’s rights, we would not have the right to vote in our country.

  7. I find war photographer museums much interesting, and I enjoy watching pictures taken in extreme situations like conflicts, wars and so on. War is something that never touched me directly, and difficultly can be imagined by a civilian, if not involved In the warfare; a picture has in fact a great strength, make observers dive into the scene caught, making feel even the breaths of the photographer; it makes us plunge into the distant situation. That the power of imagines, much useful with the aim of informing people: no word is needed, no mediation e nothing artificial, so photographer have been able to donate us effective and still alive moments of the Great War.
    The video can be an additional support for the comprehension of the poem, but it could have been assemble in a much more functional way, in the sense that the music can distract, and the imagines are sometimes banal: original picture of the WWI could have been chosen; colleting modern images referred to now-a-days conflict wants probably making us notice how timeless this poem can be.
    The both videos helped me confirming my opinions on the piece of poetry, and what I appreciated the most of the poem was the final couplet, in which the hypocrisy of mankind is described: war interests just those who are killed or bombed, the other ones have time just for few tears and then immediately forget not to feel the same sorrow of the unfortunate ones.
    I think that this could be a proper conclusion to the WWI project since photography can describe the horrors of the warfare with the same power of poetry, even better and more directly, with no human mediation and plunging the observer into the frame. Alles Gute

  8. In my opinion a phrase to summarize the core concept of this poem is: the role of a photographer is make people aware of the tragedy of war through images because we still are too indifferent.

    I think you decided to conclude with this poem because it talks about the horror of war of all ages. It is like an universal war poem because it describes, like a real picture, what happens in warfare in contrast to our indifference and our “ordinary pain” that is nothing compared to the suffering of people in war.
    I approve this choice. In my opinion it is a very powerful poem that makes us think about our condition and conditions in warfare and like a photograph can remain eternally printed in our mind.

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