1st Edition

Conversations on Conflict Photography

By Lauren Walsh Copyright 2019
    376 Pages
    by Routledge

    376 Pages
    by Routledge

    In today’s image-saturated culture, the visual documentation of suffering around the world is more prevalent than ever. Yet instead of always deepening the knowledge or compassion of viewers, conflict photography can result in fatigue or even inspire apathy. Given this tension between the genre’s ostensible goals and its effects, what is the purpose behind taking and showing images of war and crisis?

    Conversations on Conflict Photography invites readers to think through these issues via conversations with award-winning photographers, as well as leading photo editors and key representatives of the major human rights and humanitarian organizations. Framed by critical-historical essays, these dialogues explore the complexities and ethical dilemmas of this line of work. The practitioners relate the struggles of their craft, from brushes with death on the frontlines to the battles for space, resources, and attention in our media-driven culture. Despite these obstacles, they remain true to a purpose, one that is palpable as they celebrate remarkable success stories: from changing the life of a single individual to raising broad awareness about human rights issues.

    Opening with an insightful foreword by the renowned Sebastian Junger and richly illustrated with challenging, painful, and sometimes beautiful images, Conversations offers a uniquely rounded examination of the value of conflict photography in today’s world.

    Foreword by Sebastian Junger


    A Note on the Interviews

    A Note on the Nachtwey Photo

    INTERVIEWS Section 1: Behind the Lens

    1. Introductory essay: “The World of Conflict Photographers” The Photographers

    2. Andrea Bruce

    3. Marcus Bleasdale

    4. Susan Meiselas

    5. Shahidul Alam

    6. Ron Haviv

    7. Spencer Platt

    8. Eman Helal

    9. Benjamin Lowy

    10. Nina Berman

    11. Alexander Joe

    12. Laurent Van der Stockt

    13. Newsha Tavakolian

    Section 2: In the Newsroom and Beyond

    14. Introductory essay: “Industry Practices, Conflict Photography, and Critical Debates” The Photo Editors and Directors of Photography

    15. Santiago Lyon, former Vice President and Director of Photography, The Associated Press

    16. MaryAnne Golon, Assistant Managing Editor and Director of Photography, The Washington Post

    17. Aidan Sullivan, Founder and CEO of Verbatim Agency and former Vice President of Photo Assignments, Getty Images

    18. Marion Mertens, Senior Digital Editor, Paris Match

    Section 3: Advocacy and Aid

    19. Introductory essay: “Photographs of Crisis: Human Rights and Humanitarian Organizations” The Human Rights and Humanitarian Agency Representatives

    20. Michael Goldfarb, Director of Communications, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)-USA

    21. Peter Bouckaert, former Emergencies Director, Human Rights Watch

    22. Ellen Tolmie, former Senior Photography Editor, UNICEF

    Conclusion “Conflict Photography: Looking Ahead”



    Lauren Walsh teaches at The New School and New York University, where she is the Director of the Gallatin School’s Photojournalism Lab. She is also the Director of Lost Rolls America, a national public archive of photography and memory.

    "[H]ighbrow, brilliant, striking, [and] thoughtful - New York Magazine

    Framed by contextualizing essays on the history of photography and the current state of the journalistic landscape, this book of interviews explores the complexities and ethical dilemmas of conflict photography today across a breadth of visual imagery, including coverage of wars as well as social, political, and economic conflicts. Walsh delivers a penetrating look at the struggles of the craft and the men and women who keep it alive, from brushes with death on the frontlines to the battles for space, resources, and attention in the media. Conversations on Conflict Photography offers unique, extended insight into ‘behind the lens’ practices, because this imagery, which informs public reactions to current events and ultimately shapes the course of history, must be better understood. - Yahoo! News

    This book offers an extraordinary window into the world of conflict photographers. Traditionally, conflict photographers have been hailed for their bravery on the frontlines. Over and over, I’ve seen that their role is far broader and far more important. They are groundbreaking journalists whose images document war crimes, violence, and human rights abuses and help bring perpetrators to justice. - David Rohde, Pulitzer Prize winner, The New Yorker

    Photographers have the most dangerous job in journalism because they have to go where the action is. Their images have deepened understanding and changed perceptions. But the cost has been high. Many have died; others been traumatized; and still others have left the profession, unable to comprehend the world's indifference. Conversations on Conflict Photography allows the photojournalists who bore witness to step out from behind the lens and tell their own stories. We owe it to them to stop and listen. - Joel Simon, Executive Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists

    Conversations on Conflict Photography will no doubt be a go-to book for anyone studying visual journalism. It humanizes what it means to negotiate the business of photographing and reporting on crisis issues by providing a diverse array of viewpoints by many seasoned professionals. - Karen Marshall, Chair of the Documentary Practice and Visual Journalism Program, International Center of Photography

    Conversations should be read by anyone interested in war and its consequences. It covers the process and danger of being a conflict photographer, the ethics of photographing combatants and victims, and the layered decisions made before distributing such photographs. Lauren Walsh’s essays and interviews are vital additions to the literature. In an age of instant gratification, Walsh insists that readers question their immediate responses to photographs of conflict. - Anne Wilkes Tucker, WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY: Images of Armed Conflict and its Aftermath and Curator Emerita, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

    In this important and timely book, Walsh guides the reader into the lives and thoughts of key photographers and industry professionals who do so much to shape our understanding of international affairs. Her concise summary of the key questions and challenges of conflict reporting is expanded on by her extensive series of interviews that capture the authoritative and authentic voices of those who act as the conduit through which we experience the lives of others caught up in conflict. - Paul Lowe, Professor of Documentary Photography, University of the Arts London

    In this era of disinformation, circulation of rumors, and threats to journalism, with a public that exhibits apathy and skepticism related to the infobesity, the work of Lauren Walsh is crucial to defending the ideals of photography. These are not the ideals of sensationalism, not a photography focused on spectacle. Rather, the ideal is a photography that captures the world as it is—an ideal of honesty, of trustworthiness, in photography. A conflict photographer is not defined as somebody who takes pictures of conflict in the field. Rather, the conflict photographer, the photojournalist, is somebody who uses a camera and belongs to the ideal of truth, of capturing the reality. Those people are so precious, and take on such risks, that they have to be protected, if we want human beings to be protected. - Christophe Deloire, Secretary General and Executive Director, Reporters Sans Frontières / Reporters Without Borders

    The bravest people in the world, and the foolhardy, are conflict photographers. My basic rule for covering wars is never to accept a ride from a photographer or video journalist: When they hear gunfire, they rush toward it. This book is a collection of interviews with photographers about the work they do, why they do it and the ethical issues they confront — including many of their most searing images. We all owe these photographers a debt for their courage and for forcing us to face the reality and brutality of war. Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winner, The New York Times

    Conversations on Conflict Photography is about the ethics of our work. It’s about imposition and intent. It’s about apathy. It’s about putting your life at risk to tell a story no one may ever see. It’s about the moral imperative of telling the news. LensCulture

    [O]ne of the most insightful reads on conflict photojournalism. Photojournalism Now

    [O]ffers a real insight into the motivations that drive journalists, as well as the toll their work takes on them.ProPhotoDaily

    [A] profound collection of insights and reflections --LSE

    "Cultural critic, writer and professor Lauren Walsh intrepidly enters the complex terrain of media literacy to deliver a twenty-first century paradigm of photojournalism… Walsh arms her readers with the tools to be engaged critical thinkers and informed global citizens, capable of activating our compassion by accepting our responsibility." ZEKE, The magazine of global documentary