Important War Photographers in History

When all the wars are over, a butterfly will still be beautiful.” – Ruskin Bond.

War photographs are brief windows to the realism and violence of eras bygone. Take a look at five revered war photographers who stripped war off its glories and valour.

Margaret Bourke-White, WWII (USA): Born in New York City, Bourke-White, traversed the world to record the onslaughts of WWII, partition of India and the Korean War. She is the first woman photographer to work in live combat zones and accompany crews to perilous bombing missions in 1942. In India, Bourke-White’s contribution is immortalised in the iconic photograph of Gandhi sitting at the spinning wheel. Bourke-White’s will to withstand the ravages of war, including helicopter fire, bombings and torpedoes earned her the name “Indestructible Maggie.”

Tauseef Mustafa, Kargil War: Revered for his documentary photographs on Iraq, Afghan and Kargil Wars, photojournalist Mustafa has also captured the tension in Taliban reigned areas from the frontlines. Being an internationally acclaimed photojournalist of contemporary times, Mustafa’s frames capture the contorted and silent agonies of his subjects.

Shoji Ueda, World War II: Japan’s first daguerreotype was imported in 1848 but at the peak of WWII, mass production of photography ensemble speaks of artists’ impetus to freeze the images of destruction. Europe and America have certainly influenced Japan’s photography sensibilities and in Ueda’s reels, we find taints of surrealism and a dream-like word suffering the pangs of war. Tottori Sand Dunes of Japan, inspired Ueda’s masterpieces till post-war realism overshadowed Ueda’s playful illustrations.

David Douglas Duncan, Korean War: a native to Missouri, Duncan was an eminent 20th-century photojournalist to contribute to the wealth of celebrated masterpieces from Korean and Vietnam War. Besides the war-ravaged areas, in Duncan’s aesthetics, we find the Keatsian beauty in the landscapes of Africa. Asia, Ireland and Europe. In an interview, Duncan had spoken about his desire to portray through the photographs the emotions a man endures when his country goes to war.

Robert Capa, The Spanish Civil War: Capa’s oeuvre is composed of five wars: The Spanish Civil War, the Second Sino-Japanese War, World War II (Europe), the 1948 Arab–Israeli War, and the First Indochina War. In Capa’s photography, we experience the stillness of death, fear and war monstrosities that would proclaim Capa one of the influential photographers of the 20th century. Capa had sensed a tragic detachment within him and vouched to retire from war photography; however, Capa continued working till he was killed in a landmine accident in Vietnam.

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