The War's Best Photographs

THE CAMERA INACTION Photographers have been in the thick of the war on every front and their cameras have been instrumental in making an historic record oF unique value. They were at the side of the troops in the desert of North Africa as they hurried forward to storm enemy positions they waded with the fighting men through the sniper-infested swamps of Far Eastern jungles and took their pictures in the intense cold of the Russian winter. Their job is the modern equivalent of that of the war-correspondent-artists who sketched their personal impressions in the days before the camera was perfected but the results they produce have this great advantage— they areas truthful as scientific apparatus can make them and they are instantaneous. Thus among the best war photographs are those which have caught and preserved for us some historical and unforgettable though fleeting moment. O f this kind are the famous pictures of the sinking of the“ Graf Spee ”:of Pearl Harbour at the very instant of the treacherous Japanese attack :of the City of London when the dome of St. Pauls was haloed by huge fires. They are intensely dramatic— seizing drama from the heaving deck of a destroyer in the grey twilight surrounding a Murmansk convoy while the arctic waters spouted with exploding bombs :orin the heart of a great city during an air raid amid an inferno of flame and devastation. Without comment they provide their own indictment of those who have brought war on the world. As well as the split second of violent action of triumph and excitement they have recorded the scenes of calamity and horror the misery of average peaceful people who have found themselves in the path of destruction and lost home or kin or both. Peasants hang outside a Russian village. A Chinese woman wails for her dead child. A sombre rescue party brings out the dead from a bombed building. The photographs of the ruin and misery caused by the Axis countries speak with force. A t the same time the photographers have found moments of beauty— a beauty that gains by contrast with the wartime reality in the middle of which it suddenly appears— without which in fact it would not exist. Such is the beauty of the aeroplane seeking its prey over the sea :of buildings which have anew grandeur in their ruinous state. From among many thousands of photographs are here chosen those which are historically unique :those which seemed most dramatic and valuable as record and those which show war as it really is.
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