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War or conflict photographers may be witnesses to unimaginable scenes of violence, brutality and bloodshed. Nevertheless they find themselves under pressure to tell the story and get their images out to the wider world. Most war photographers and reporters have a keen sense of mission and duty - why, otherwise, would they put themselves in such obvious danger? Indeed many war photographers lose their lives in the execution of their duty. More war photographers have been killed or injured whilst working in the conflict zones of Iraq and Afghanistan than in any other war. Some are injured or killed as a consequence of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but others are targeted by combatants who wish to prevent them recording events.

Great War - public domain image
Public domain image

Inevitably, those who photograph and report from front-line situations are deeply affected by the dreadful events unfolding before them. Some are accused of being adrenaline junkies because they move from war to war and push their lenses in an "insensitive" manner in to the lives of traumatized victims and in to situations where there is terrible suffering. This accusation may have some validity but of course there is another side to the argument. Without the presence of the photographers how would the outside world become aware of the real situation? Some images have certainly changed the conduct and perception of wars - think of the iconic images taken during the Vietnam War by photographers such as Eddie Adams and Nick Ut, or those of the Spanish Civil War or the D-Day landings captured by Robert Capa.

Many war photographers witness scenes that no human being should have to see. Some of the images they capture are judged too horrific for public consumption and are never published. But these same scenes linger in the minds of the photographers and may haunt them for the rest of their lives. The incidence of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological problems in war photographers is thought to be comparable with that in the combatants themselves.

This is not an easy profession.

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