Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

The Lessons of Conversations in Conflict Photography

Book Launch and Gallery Show

Nov 6, 2019

The back of a woman, standing in front of a photogtaph of another woman

Photo Credit: Arundhati Swaminathan

As a complement to the launch of the new book from Gallatin faculty member Lauren Walsh, Conversations on Conflict Photography (Bloomsbury, 2019), The Gallatin Galleries hosted an exhibition of the same name, which ran from October 9 through October 18, 2019. The exhibition featured the works of award-winning photographers included in the book, whose work has historically catalyzed many responses to global conflicts. The voices of these photographers were highlighted alongside the iconic images they created, many of them reflecting on the ethical debates about the nature of documenting human suffering.

In lieu of a celebration of the release of the book, Walsh took the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion about the work, inviting photojournalist Nina Berman and former Vice President and Director of Photography of the Associated Press, Santiago Lyon, to join her to discuss some of the book’s central concerns on October 16.

One question that led both the exhibition and discussion centered on whether these photographs resonate and deepen our global knowledge or inadvertently increase our apathy towards foreign crises due to oversaturation. The discussion considered the aestheticization of war photography, censorship, narrative formation, and the influence of social media as we plunge further into the digital age.

“Suppression or misinformation in the present can echo dangerously throughout history,” says Walsh. “The creation and distribution of journalistic documentation work to counteract the forces of censorship and propaganda, and thus sit at the core of what democracies hold dear.”

With many of her former and current students in attendance, Walsh highlighted the importance of visual literacy and the ethics of identity circulation. The conversation among experts recognized the risks journalists take, the contextualization images need, and the consciousness required of citizens when intaking increasing amounts of visual information.

--Mary Gonzalez (BA '20)