War Photography

At university I did a semester looking at Photojournalism during which we looked at the work of Roger Fenton during the Crimean War. These pictures were widely held to be the first example of war photography, though to the modern eye there is not a lot of “war”, no doubt due to the limitations of the equipment at the time.

“Due to the size and cumbersome nature of his photographic equipment, Fenton was limited in his choice of motifs. Because the photographic material of his time needed long exposures, he was only able to produce pictures of stationary objects, mostly posed pictures; he avoided making pictures of dead, injured or mutilated soldiers.”

Fenton’s pictures all look so innocent compared to those that would be produced a few years later during the American Civil War.


I’ve recently started listening to RadioLab, as US PBS radioshow/podcast. In their episode In the Valley of the Shadow of Doubt they take a look at Fenton’s “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” and try to figure out if it is an authentic picture or somehow staged.

“Errol Morris is a legendary fact-hunting documentary sleuth. His film The Thin Blue Line has been credited with overturning a murder conviction, and freeing an accused man from a death sentence. For him, the search for truth shouldn’t stop short of insanity. He tells Jad and Robert a story about his obsession with one particular photograph.”More…

It’s well worth a listen.