“Through her compelling, well-researched stories that span the wars of the past hundred years, Janina Struk has given us a thought provoking perspective on soldiers’ wartime pictures that shows that professional photography has fallen short of giving a complete picture of war - an original groundbreaking work and a good read”
Private Pictures: A Soldiers' Inside View of War (I.B. Tauris, 2010)
Snapshots taken by American soldiers of Iraqi prisoners stripped naked, humiliated and tortured, shocked the world in 2004. But, as Private Pictures relates, soldiers have taken photographs of the gruesome or sociable, shocking or mundane aspects of war for more than 100 years.
These images have rarely crossed the threshold to general public consciousness. They are essentially private, intended for families and friends, or for the soldiers themselves. They have not been regarded as serious contributions to a visual culture of war, which for most of the 20th century was dominated by professional documentary photography.
Now, with the 21st century shift to simple digital photography and internet communications, and with the media adopting the culture of "reality", a glut of highly disturbing images videos as well as stills - is being posted on the internet by western forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, with sometimes disturbing results.
I have traced and studied thousands of soldiers' images, and Private Pictures follows this unacknowledged genre of photography from the origins of popular photography at the time of the Boer War to the digital age. This book discusses how soldiers' pictures were exploited by the press to thwart official censorship during the First World War and how during the Second World War the pictures taken by German troops of their crimes in occupied Eastern Europe were used against them by the underground resistance to Nazi occupation - and how an exhibition of some of these pictures 50 years later was to undermine the whole historical narrative on which post war Germany was built.
It also tells how Israeli soldiers are using their personal snapshots taken in Palestinian territories to raise public debate about the policy of occupation, and how pictures taken by British troops in Iraq led to their court martial.Private Pictures discusses the significance of this imagery and asks what effect the wider appreciation of soldiers' pictures might have on the popular perception of war, and on war photography itself.
The Budapest Times