Conflict photography has a long and troubled history. A newly-released episode of The Great War discusses how World War One took this dangerous and oft-times controversial form of photography into adolescence. The episode specifically focuses on a pioneer of the form, Ernest Brooks.
History aficionados are most likely aware of The Great War YouTube channel documentary series. Hosted by Indy Neidell and produced by Mediakraft Networks, since 2014 the channel has produced a weekly update on war developments 100 years ago to the day, during one of the most horrific chapters in human history. In addition to these weekly news briefs, the channel also includes special episodes based around significant points of the war.
The most recent episode focuses on how portable camera technology changed the face of war reportage, pointing out how new consumer cameras produced by companies like Kodak allowed soldiers to capture the war from their perspective. It also explains how the proliferation of cameras in this way led to regulations on what soldiers could photograph and led to extensive camouflaging of camera gear.
The employment of official war photographers aimed to control the visual narrative coming from the trenches. Brooks, as a trained photographer working for the UK newspaper, The Daily Mirror, was recruited to serve in a propaganda role for the British government. Capturing action on multiple fronts he was eventually designated the official photographer for the entire Western front and over the years began to show increasingly more of the darker, gruesome effects of the war that the government wished to suppress.
For any shutterbug with an interest in the history of conflict photography this is a must watch.