War Photographer Commentary Essay

War photographer’ by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem that explores the theme of death. In the poem we see the photographer developing images that he had taken from the war, as he is processing these images his thoughts and memories come flooding back to him. This poem captures the readers attention bringing them to realization of the hardships and dangerous situations faced by those part of the war.

On the other hand, this poem focuses on the role of the photographer having a monotonous and realistic life. Title:”WAR photographer “is a very eye-catching, strong and effective title.The title conveys to the onlookers the idea and theme of death, war, blood and other such aspects from a specific point of view. Purpose:The Purpose of this poem is to show the destruction and devastation that the war tends to bring and how no one can hang on to the same problem for the rest of their life. One has to move on and will do so. Character:the photographer in the poem is anonymous: he could be any of those who record scenes of war. He is not so much a particular individual as, like the poet, an observer and recorder of others’ lives.He is an outsider (“alone/With spools of suffering”) who moves between two worlds but is comfortable in neither.

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Tone:The tone of the poem changes over the poem. The tone of the first stanza is grave showing an inhuman nature of no feelings towards death. On the other hand, the second stanza brings out a contrast of being at work than at home. The pain and agony were minimized when he was as home facing only ordinary pain, and therefore “home again to ordinary pain. This stanza conveys a message, wherever your heading to, there will always be pain seen through his lenses. Carol ann duff’s tone changes from grave to insensitiveness.The 4th stanza is significant for the role of photographs. The poet makes the readers realize the significance of being a photographer Analysis ; Literary Devices:The first line of the poem it says `In his dark room, he is finally alone’.

This is showing that the photographer has his own time to reflect away from everyone else and has the time to develop his images. like a priest, he teaches how fragile we are and how short life is in connection to the line ” a priest preparing to intone a Mass” This brings out a contrast between the role of the photographer and that of a priest. `Belfast, Beirut, Phaum Penn’ I feel that it’s mportant to mention these countries to show that these wars are happening across the world, from Europe (Belfast), to the Middle East (Beirut) to Asia (Phnom Penh).

However it may also mean that they are areas that the photographer was probably stationed at: Ireland, Lebanon, and Cambodia, respectively. Despite being different regions, they are the same places to the photographer, for, as described: “all flesh is grass” (quoted from the bible) (6), or all of the men photographed came from the same earth – they are all human. The Metaphor `spools of suffering’ shows the theme of death.It’s an effective comparison as it’s not the spools that are suffering, it’s the photos on the spools. The spools where set out in `ordered rows’ this goes back to the idea of death as the spools were set out in the same way that coffins would be.

The “ordered rows” of film spools may suggest how the photographer tries to bring order to what he records, to interpret or make sense of it. “With spools of suffering set out… ” the poet uses alliteration, metaphor as well as an onomatopoeic effect in this line. This is used to show the rush of images and the agony the photographer has while processing the picture.

In the second stanza, the photographer struggles internally. He has no emotion in this work, or, at least he tries to tell himself that. After all: “he has a job to do” (7). Yet there is an irony what these photographs represent start to affect him: “Solutions slop in trays / beneath his hands which did not tremble then / though seem to now” (7-8).

The more puzzling issue is that his hands didn’t tremble when he was out in the field taking these pictures. It is a message that when doing the “job”, the photographer feels nothing; he is devoid of emotion, simply earning a living.It is as if the panic has been delayed. . “Solutions” refers literally to the developing fluid in the trays, but also suggests the idea of solving the political problems which cause war – “solutions” which he does not have, of course.

In the third stanza, “Ghost” is ambiguous . It suggests the faint emerging image, but also that the man in the photo is dead. The photographer recalls both the reaction of the wife on seeing her husband die. He is not able to ask for permission to take the picture (either there is no time or he does not speak the language or both) but he seeks “approval without words”.It is as if the wife needs to approve of his recording the event while the blood stains “into foreign dust”.

The final stanza echoes the matter of fact tone of the first stanza. Behind every photo there are so many different stories that are described as “A hundred agonies” but only a small selection will be chosen to make an impact on the reader. They will have some effect. They will have enough to make the reader perhaps have tears in their eyes indicated when with “The reader’s eyeballs prick,” but it is only transitory.

For that moment when they read the paper it will stir them but quickly the reader will be thinking of something else such as “pre-lunch beers” representing the ease to move on in life. “In black and white” is ambiguous: it suggests the monochrome photographs but also the ideas of telling the truth and of the simple contrast of good and evil. Duffy imagines the photographer finally looking down, from an aeroplane, on England (either coming or going). This is the country which pays his wages (“where/he earns his living”) but where people “do not care” about the events he record.Structure:The poem’s structure hardly varies at all in the poem, all fours verses are six lines long and each line is of similar length. Duffy shows a clear pleasure in using enjambment as she used it in all four verses. In the first verse the reader has to wait until the end of the fifth line to take a breath.

This illustrates how Duffy dictates the rhythm and flow of the poem through simple punctuation. Duffy used an ABBCDD throughout the poem, although in verse 4 she also uses an internal rhyming scheme in line 22, ‘with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers’.


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