Janina Struk
“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”
– Andy McNab.

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.


"In her thought-provoking new book, Private Pictures, Janina Struk... traces the history of soldiers' photographs, which are almost as old as photography itself, beginning with a small stash of black-and-white portraits discovered by the British war reporter Robert Fisk in 1998 in the attic of his mother's house. They were taken by his father, Second Lieutenant William Fisk, who had served in the first world war... but they were illegal, and possession of such private pictures could lead to a court martial and a possible death sentence. Despite this, as Struk notes, "thousands of soldiers from all sides took their cameras to the first world war. The question was, why?" It is a question that resounds through this fascinating book..." The Art of War Photography, Sean O'Hagan, 4 November 2011

The Independent
"...terrifying new book Private Pictures – about the private photographs taken by soldiers, from the Boer and 1914-18 wars through to the post-2003 US invasion of Iraq". Robert Fisk, 19 November 2011

The Independent 
"Why torturers film their handiwork"  Robert Fisk, 26 November 2011

The Budapest Times
"Janina Struk has travelled the world to accumulate evidence for her book. The result is an extremely well-researched work which deserves to become a standard reference for anyone concerned or simply curious about the issues involved in war and photography", Bob Dent, 10 February, 2012

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Photographing the Holocaust

Private Pictures