Killing for Show
Photography, War, and the Media in Vietnam and Iraq
See firsthand how war photography is used to sway public opinion.
In the autumn of 2014, the Royal Air Force released blurry video of a missile blowing up a pick-up truck which may have had a weapon attached to its flatbed. This was a lethal form of gesture politics: to send a £9-million bomber from Cyprus to Iraq and back, burning £35,000 an hour in fuel, to launch a smart missile costing £100,000 to destroy a truck or, rather, to create a video that shows it being destroyed. Some lives are ended—it is impossible to tell whose—so that the government can pretend that it taking effective action by creating a high-budget snuff movie. This is killing for show.
Since the Vietnam War the way we see conflict—through film, photographs, and pixels—has had a powerful impact on the political fortunes of the campaign, and the way that war has been conducted. In this fully illustrated and passionately argued account of war imagery, Julian Stallabrass tells the story of post-war conflict, how it was recorded and remembered through its iconic photography.
The relationship between war and photograph is constantly in transition, forming new perspectives, provoking new challenges: what is allowed to be seen? Does an image have the power to change political opinion? How are images used to wage war? Stallabrass shows how photographs have become a vital weapon in the modern war: as propaganda—from close-quarters fighting to the drone’s electronic vision—as well as a witness to the barbarity of events such as the My Lai massacre, the violent suppression of insurgent Fallujah or the atrocities in Abu Ghraib.
Through these accounts Stallabrass maps a comprehensive theoretical re-evaluation of the relationship between war, politics and visual culture.
Killing for Show offers:
- 190 photographs encompassing photojournalism, artists’ images, photographs by soldiers and amateurs and drones
- A comprehensive comparison of the role of photography in the Vietnam and Iraq Wars
- An explanation of the waning power of iconic images in collective memory
- An analysis of the failure of military PR and the public display of killing
- A focus on what can and cannot be seen, photographed and published
- An exploration of the power and limits of amateur photography
- Arguments about how violent images act on democracy