John Kifner "Good as a Gun: When Cameras Define a War" response

by Naida Carew, July 2015

300 words

1 page


Good as a Gun: When Cameras Define a War

Various debates exist on the influence of visual media on the perception of war. Studies on the interrelationship between visual media and image of war show that photographs, taken in war zones, influence people’s perception of war in various ways. Moreover, it has been proved that visual media influences people’s psyche more than media texts. That is why the formats of various magazines and journals changed dramatically. Photos began to occupy more and more space. This change occurred due to the fact that photographs appeal to emotions more than text and, therefore, form the image of the war according to what a person sees when looking at the picture.

The article by John Kifner “Good as a Gun: When Cameras Define a War” (Kifner) perfectly describes the influence of photographs taken in war areas on the formation of war image. The author discusses how the photos taken in Iraq affect the interpretation of U.S. – Iraq conflict. For example, looking at “a picture of the body of an American soldier splayed out on a street in Mosul” creates the perception of the Iraqis as merciless warriors. Moreover, this photo depicts the war as a very cruel period when people’s lives cost nothing.

Another picture taken in Somalia evokes nearly the same feelings. John Kifner describes a photo as “an American soldier's body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu” (Kifner). This picture also appeals to people’s emotions trying to persuade the viewers that American withdrawal from Somalia was an abrupt and embarrassing event. The author of the photograph intends to show how ruthless human beings can be. In addition, the author wanted to evoke indignation in the hearts of Americans, whose countryman was killed in such a ferocious way.

Except of the purpose to evoke the feeling of sorrow and indignation, these photos have one more aim. They were taken in order to boost morale of American soldiers and make them strive to avenge the death of their countrymen. “The image of President Bush in an army windbreaker, alternately teary-eyed and grinning, holding a Thanksgiving turkey on a platter, surrounded by cheering soldiers in a mess tent at Baghdad International Airport” (Kifner) has similar purpose, although, the picture does not show cruelty and violence. This photograph was taken with the purpose to show the faith and support from the government which are also intended to boost the spirit of US service men and women.

To conclude, without a doubt, the photos taken in war zones have a great power, as they appeal to people’s emotions more than military reports and articles. That is due to human ability to visualize what we see and give more attention to it. However, the events depicted on war pictures should not be always taken for granted as visual media is intended to manipulate our perception of war and evoke the feelings which may cause violence towards the opponents in war.

Works Cited

Kifner, John. “Good as a Gun: When Cameras …

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