Peace Photography: Chapter Overview


Introduction: Peace Photography, the Ultimate Provocation

Peace photography, in contrast to war photography, does not exist as a separate photographic genre. This introductory chapter sketches what such a photography might look like. It is argued, first, that the relationship between images and peace is episodic, not causal. Secondly, visions of peace reflect specific cultural configurations; they cannot claim universal validity. Thirdly, just as conflict transformation requires adequate approaches to both the past and the future, visions of peace, without ignoring the history of violent encounters, have to go beyond constantly referring back to what was and, instead, point forward to what will be or to what might be, to peace or to peace as a potentiality.

1 Peace and Peace Photography

In this chapter, I am interested in the absence of peace from photographic discourse and the absence of both peace and visual analysis from peace research. I discuss photography in connection with different approaches to peace – negative, positive and quality peace. I show why it is so difficult to connect with one another peace and photography beyond assessments based on first-person assumptions. I argue that, as an epistemological medium, photography is especially suitable for the depiction of everyday peace. Reflecting the peculiarities of peace photography, the chapter is episodic, impressionistic and essayistic. It emphasizes that peace photography is derivative, illustrative and constitutive of peace.

2 Visual Peace: towards a Sociology of Visual Knowledge

Chapter 2 concludes the first, theoretical-conceptual part of the book. Here, I suggest a sociology of visual knowledge in order to identify processes of objectivation in connection with knowledge generated by visual images. In particular, I suggest paying attention to the acceleration of politics which renders thorough image analysis difficult, to the image–language interplay, to different forms of knowledge produced by different kinds of image makers – professional and non-professional photographers – and to the democratisation of image making, frequently alleged to be a part of digitisation.


3 This Is Peace! – Robert Capa at Work

Opening the second part of the book, chapter 3 is dedicated to Robert Capa, the peace photographer. Focusing on selected Spanish Civil War photographs, I argue that these photographs qualify as peace photographs – photographs of everyday peace – because they represent the continuation of the everyday in times of war. They visually emphasise the lived experience of ordinary people who refuse to appear as victims and, instead, go about their business, trying to maintain a somewhat normal life in adverse circumstances – acts of resistance to the dynamics and logics of war. Ultimately, Capa’s photographs show that the juxtaposition war–peace often collapses and make us think about what we mean by and how we understand peace.

4 From War to Peace (1): Peace Photography and the Archive

Chapter 4 opens a sequence of three chapters dedicated to visual representations of the aftermath of violent conflict. Such representations challenge existing cultural norms and established forms of representation. In chapter 4, I discuss photographic archives as both sites for potentially infinite discursive meaning making and ‘structures of meaning in process’ (Roberts) in the course of which meanings assigned to images can change from war to peace. Archives are never completed; they are never closed. They remain open for renegotiation and reinterpretation of their contents including reinterpretation in terms of peace and solidarity.

5 From War to Peace (2): the Aftermath-as-Event

In this chapter, I refer to the aftermath of a violent event as an event in its own right that can be visualised; such visualisations would qualify as photographs of peace, at least in comparison to what came before. Looking at photography of children in post-genocide Rwanda, I argue that the aftermath of the event – be it war, genocide, or other forms of large-scale violence – is an event in its own right precisely because of the absence of what is conventionally understood as event-ness. Following the use of large-scale physical force, the (relative) peace of the aftermath can be understood as an event, perhaps from the point of view of peace photography even as the main event, which can be referenced visually.

6 Truth, Memory and Justice: on Forensic Photography

In chapter 6, concluding part 2, I discuss forensic photography – by definition aftermath photography – in what is probably the book’s most experimental chapter, drawing from literary sources as much as from photographic ones. Forensic photography, I argue, is an important ingredient of the criminal justice system, serving as visual evidence unaffected by the vicissitudes of human memory. In the context of forced disappearances, it has a support function for families and loved ones of the disappeared and it is a visual plea against forgetting. Forensic photography addresses the criminal justice system, the relatives of the disappeared and a wider audience. It reappears the disappeared in viewers’ imagination and increases the number of those knowledgeable of the policy, history and presence of forced disappearance.


7 Remembering Together

Opening part 3 of the book, chapter 7 returns to discussions anticipated in chapters 2 and 5: to questions pertaining to witnessing, remembering and forgetting. I ask what forms of knowledge – including knowledge on peace – photojournalists and citizen photographers produce. In order to answer this question, I engage with Avishai Margalit’s writings on political and moral witnesses and argue for a non-hierarchical approach to collective memories, accepting different memories as equally valuable in terms of knowledge production. This does not include moral equivalence.

8 Imagination, Invisibility and Hyper-visibility

In chapter 8, I compare Dorothea Lange’s historical photography of internal migration in the United States with Richard Mosse’s recent photography of international migration in search of a photography that triggers either compassion or solidarity. Methodologically, I introduce appropriation as a method in visual peace research that increases the researcher’s autonomy vis-à-vis the artwork and the artist. Furthermore, I note that the limits of photography are not the limits of visual culture.

9 The Visual Culture of Security Communities

Security communities are conditioned by expectations of dependable peaceful adjustment between and among groups of people. Neither the original writings on security communities nor social constructivist adaptations had anything to say about the ways in which, and the extent to which, visual culture can contribute to security community building. This chapter fills this gap by focusing mainly on two aspects: first, the potentialities of visual culture as to representing the commonalities of being human (MacDougall) thus contributing to mutual responsiveness; and, secondly, photography’s capability of strengthening ‘the pathetic understanding of an other’ (Thompson), with ‘pathetic’ referencing experience passively received such as looking at a photograph, thus thwarting the transformation of difference into Otherness.