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Image of Battle Lost Its Aura of Nobility
“Has War Changed, or Only War Photography?” focuses on the work of two photojournalists: Lynsey Addario and Robert Capa. Lynsey Addario has been taking war pictures since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She is a MacArthur fellow and has shared a Pulitzer Prize for international reporting awarded to The New York Times in 2009 for its coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Addario seeks to use images to undo preconceptions and to show a reality often misunderstood or misrepresented. She portrays the victims of war, especially women and children, and depicts the aftermath of natural disasters. Her work reflects a shift in sensibility where unwavering faith in the justice of one side has perished.
On the other hand, Robert Capa's war photographs expressed his belief in war as a conflict between good and evil. Capa avoided the gut-wrenching images that prevail in contemporary war photography. His biographer, Richard Whelan, wrote that Capa's pictures of an American serviceman, Raymond J. Bowman, 21, lying dead from a German sniper's bullet through the forehead in Leipzig, in mid-April 1945, near the end of the war, were "the most gruesome photographs of Capa's entire career." In these photos, the young corporal lies supine, his legs splayed out on the balcony from which he had been firing a machine gun, his head and arm twisted on the wooden floor of the apartment he has been knocked back into. An amoeba-shaped puddle of blood oozes beneath him.
However, compared to the war photography that came afterward, Capa's image is archaically dignified. "It was a very clean, somehow very beautiful death, and I think that's what I remember most from the war," Capa said in a radio interview in 1947. When you look at his photograph, you see what he was seeing. With good reason, we don't see it that way anymore.
The article highlights how war photography has evolved over time and how it reflects the changing sensibilities of society towards war. While Capa's work reflects a belief in war as a conflict between good and evil, Addario's work portrays the victims of war and seeks to challenge preconceptions about it.