War Exhibit, Corcoran Gallery

The Corcoran Gallery’s exhibit on war photography is a clear indication of how important photography has been in the general public’s understanding of war. War photography has been the major force against the public’s romanticization of war. 

It is amazing how poignant pictures can be. The photos in the exhibit allowed the viewer to feel sympathetic towards the subjects in the picture, helping to decrease the gap between people at home and people at war. Sontag mentions in her essay that people will never be able to feel empathy towards subjects in a war photograph because they have not gone through the same adversity. While I do agree with her, I think that even the sympathy people feel towards others in photographs can do a huge deal in helping the general public understand what what war is like. Even the sympathy people feel towards subjects in pictures allows them to be more aware of the adversity people face at war. 

One particular photograph that struck me was photographed by Don McCullen and was named Fallen North Vietnamese Soldier. This photograph captured a fallen Vietnamese soldier with  photos of his family and friends and little trinkets of his laid out in-front of him. While I have not been so closely involved with death, I was able to sympathize with the soldier and his loved one’s. The things laid out in-front of the soldier had a great impact as they allowed the viewer to better understand the soldier as a person. 

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2 thoughts on “War Exhibit, Corcoran Gallery”

  1. Don McCullen’s Fallen North Vietnamese soldier also made a lasting impression on me. It was sad to see a fallen soldier who has left his loved ones behind. It seems no matter the culture, continent, or participating powers, soldiers on both sides always carry such photographs and letters which I felt gave them something in common. War seems senseless when both sides have soldiers that go off and leave girlfriends and family behind with the possibility of never seeing them again. The most prominent belonging of the fallen soldier in Vietnam was a photograph of presumably a girlfriend or lover which got me thinking of the role such sentiments play in war. I know my grandfather who was stationed in Alaska during World War 2, had a pen pal for many years in Seattle. Although he had no intention of marrying her, he has said that such correspondence helped ease his time away and gave him hope and purpose to his service; he was fighting for people like her. Soldiers seem to always send pictures and letters to women back home and I would be interested in learning the psychology behind it.

  2. The psychology of war truly is an interesting aspect that the pictures both showed us, and in other senses hide from us. In certain aspects the emotions and fears of the person photographed is obvious, however, why they are feeling that, or what is obviously going through their minds is out of our reach. We could see what the soldiers were feeling on their face, such as fear. However, we couldn’t see why they were afraid. Were they afraid to die? Were they afraid to leave someone behind? Both, we will never know. However, there was one photo that struck me as stocking, I believe because of the sheer lack of emotion. This photograph was the photo of a man in the distance, taken through the scope of a sniper rifle. In this photo we couldn’t see anyone’s face, the sniper or his intended victim. This took away all the emotion and set up this murder in the coldest way possible. This wasn’t a kill in the heat of the moment. This was one man killing another man, in a cold, calculating and quiet strike. The poor man wouldn’t even know what was happening until he was struck. That in itself I believe is it’s own type of psychology, that death can come from any where, at any time.

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