The historical value of photographs taken of atrocities, is something that is often over looked due to ethical debates raised by their subject matter, although images of this nature hold an unequivocal importance for a variety of reasons. Imagine a history lesson without a photograph of World War 2, imagine being the teacher trying to explain the true devastation and chaos of war to a room full of children without visual aid.

Being told about an atrocity is one thing, but for many of us, we fail to truly comprehend that atrocity until we can visualize it. A photograph allows us to really understand an atrocity, to see an event, its true devastation and in many cases the emotions caused by that devastation.

“Remembering is an ethical act, has an ethical value in and of itself. Memory is, achingly, the only relation we can have with the dead.” [1] We remember an image of war or a starving African child because of the impact that image has on us, the emotions the image invoke, work as a vessel to carry their message.

Photographs will always be used as a tool in the present to teach humanity of the mistakes they made in the past, as well as this they help teach the more fortunate people amongst us, of the issues that continue to devastate the less fortunate, as for many of us, a photograph is as close as we are likely to get.

Photographs are a means of making ‘real’ (or ‘more real’) matters that the privileged and the merely safe might prefer to ignore. [2]

References

[1] Susan Sontag – Regarding the Pain of Others – 2003 – Farrar, Stratus and Giroux – Unknown – Unknown

[2] Susan Sontag – Regarding the Pain of Others – 2003 – Farrar, Stratus and Giroux – Unknown – Unknown

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