Photography and Children of War

Examines the importance of documenting children in situations of war.

Photography has become an important tool in documenting child casualties of war. Since its invention in 1839, photography has been used to record the horrors of the battlefield. Photographic documentation of war first focused largely on the men involved in the conflict: generals meeting with their troops and horrific images of battlefield carnage. That focus changed with the Vietnam War, as photographic documentation of the civilian casualties of war became well-known. The most famous of these photographs, a striking image of a young girl fleeing a Napalm strike in terror, likely changed the face of the documentation of child casualties in war for all time. This paper shows that, today, documentation of children in war is an important part of the photographic record. Photographs of child casualties in the Gulf war and the recent Iraqi conflict have had an important role in humanizing the conflicts and bringing to light the sad reality of war: that the innocent suffer the most.
“There are important implications that can follow the photographic documentation of children in war. Like all photographs, those of child casualties in war are simply a stolen moment, a snapshot of time. The impact of such photographs can be unexpected, especially on the lives of the subjects of the photographs. For example, media attention from Nick Ut’s famous photograph changed the course of Kim Phuc’s life forever. The Vietnamese government considered her a valuable symbol of the war, and took her out of medical school. Kim tried to evade the government, but foreign journalists inevitably tracked her down and exposed her to the government. She eventually received asylum in Canada, and acts as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador (Saywell) “.