Photography at war

From the 1849 siege of Rome by the French army to the current civil war in Syria, photography accompanies and illustrates major conflicts. However, what realities encompasses the commonly accepted term ‘war photographs’? In many cases it actually meets a plurality of purposes, whether they are competing, concomitant, or successive: we capture images to inform, document, prove, legitimise, deceive, denounce, bear witness, remember, but also to represent war.

Photography is often reduced to the dimension of war reporting, although when it is used for military purposes, it can be turned into a weapon of combat and persuasion, or even a documentation and intelligence tool. The exhibition focuses on the images produced as artworks and documents, but also on the context in which they were created, distributed and received, as well as their underlying intentions, with an ongoing consideration for their social, cultural, economic, political and military dimensions.

It also examines their aesthetic qualities by placing them in the artistic movements of their time, while showing the plastic posterity of images for which the primary purpose was essentially practical or documentary.

For the first time the Musée de l’Armée is taking the opportunity to highlight its exceptional collection of over 60,000 photographs, most of which are unknown. Finally, based on the fact that the public of the 21st century is confronted with an overload of information in which images play an essential if not exclusive role, the aim is to encourage the widest possible audience, including the youngest, to cast a critical and attentive eye on the ways in which the conflicts, which they are usually confronted with, are portrayed.

Photography at war