The Trials and Tribulations of Making or Facing Photographs of War

WarPorn

Why do we care so little about war photography? It is to be expected that many people will object to me phrasing the genre’s essential conundrum this way. After all, we do care about these kinds of photographs, often quite a bit. But we don’t care enough for their existence to have the desired effect.

The common assumption appears to be that war photographs will move us in such a way that, well, we will do something, or at least someone will do something. For example, the “something” could mean to end whatever war’s consequences are bring shown, or even, why not be an idealist?, to put an end to all future wars.

The reality is, however, that this simply does not happen most of the time. No picture has ever ended a war, and it’s debatable to what extent any photograph has contributed to possibly helping end one.

For example, in 1924 German pacifist Ernst Friedrich published a photobook entitled War Against War, a collection of (archival) photographs from and after World War I, showing what that war and its aftermath looked like. Originally published with captions in four languages (German, English, French, and Dutch), the book became a bestseller, running through many editions. Fifteen years later, Germany invaded Poland, starting World War II.

Photographs can be immensely powerful entities on a personal level. But on the scale of a society or culture, unless they are iconic photographs they are mostly impotent.

The pictures we think of as iconic photographs in effect have ceased to be photographs, having essentially been transformed into a part of our societal or cultural mythology or ideology, part of the fabric that constitutes what we take for granted, how we define ourselves as a society or culture. In other words, we don’t view iconic photographs as photographs, we view them as representatives of often abstract ideals they are made to stand for. In a nutshell, when we admire or are in awe of an iconic photograph, we usually admire or are in awe of our own mythology or ideology: here is visual proof that what we believe in is really true.

Coming back to war photography, it’s probably safe to say that there exists a divide between those who take the pictures, photojournalists, and those who view them. This divide manifests itself in a variety of ways, the consequences of which are on display in the books I am going to discuss in the following. Photographers bringing home images of war are usually much more insistent that they ought to have the desired effect than the audience. When that desired effect is not forthcoming, the photographers will often not hesitate making their dissatisfaction known.

“If we don’t allow ourselves to look at horrible images, how will we be able to remember events comprehensively?” asks Christoph Bangert in the introduction to his new book War Porn (yes, that is the title). On the back of Robert King‘s Democratic Desert, the photographer is quoted as follows: “As a photographer it’s not my job to aspire towards aesthetically pleasing images of war that are palatable to the public or the photographic community. Many viewers may find it easier to condemn the image maker rather than the perpetrators of war crimes against humanity.”

These two quotes cover a wide range of what many photojournalists will say about their work and the (perceived) lack of the desired reaction to it: a) viewers and/or photo editors effectively censor images because they don’t want to look at them or b) they’re not pretty enough, c) without looking at the images the events depicted therein cannot be fully understood, and d) the public will always rather blame the photographers for what’s in the pictures than whoever is responsible for the actions or events depicted. This list might be incomplete, but I think it contains some of the most frequently heard sentiments.

Let’s look at these claims in detail, staring with c). Looking at images of some horrible event isn’t going to help you any more understanding it than not looking or not being able to look (if there are no photographs). A photograph, after all, is merely a very limited representation of what actually happened. On top of that, the idea that understanding events “comprehensively” is only able if we look at pictures limits the idea of what “understanding” actually means, in particular as far as its limits are concerned. Our understanding of events is actually as crucially based on how much we are able to understand as on all the things we will never be able to understand.

If you think of the sublime, for example, the idea that our understanding is essential misses the entire point. The sublime is so powerful exactly because there are things beyond our understanding (or imitation etc.). It’s not hard to think of other very important concepts that operate the same way (terror being another example).

Events like a war are not comparable to, say, an equation in physics. I can learn and understand the mathematics the equation is based on, and I can also learn and understand the physical principles behind it. That way, I can learn and understand how some mass, accelerated away from the ground at some angle, will fall back to the ground in very specific ways. But while physics governs the trajectory of a mortar grenade, what happens after an actual grenade hits the ground and explodes I can only understand to a certain degree, regardless of however many pictures of mutilated bodies you show me. A war, any war, will contains thousands and thousands of such events, and if I can’t fully understand one, I’m not even remotely going to be able to understand that war.

Elizabeth Shambelan summed up this point in a recent article that centers on Jonathan Shay’s Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and on war literature in general. Here is the key quote from her piece: “The crux of war is combat, and the crux of combat is terror. […] But terror is everything that resists representation — it reduces existence to brute immanence. Language should fracture into gibberish and representation should fail in the face of combat’s grotesque literalism, and war literature should be an oxymoron, a self-canceling proposition. Representation itself can take us just far enough to glimpse this fact, and to appreciate, as if from a high promontory, the incredible gulf between terror and its depiction. Anything that purports to bridge that gap is not merely distorting but corrupting what it represents. (my emphasis; Elizabeth Shambelan: Hard Corps; Bookforum Vol. 21, Issue 2, page 25f.)

There it is then: “Anything that purports to bridge that gap is not merely distorting but corrupting what it represents.” The ultimate goal of war photography is unachievable. This would seem to be a very bold statement. It’s probably straightforward to see how writing won’t be able to bridge the gap (even though this writer does not think that writing can do less than photography – usually, it’s the other way around). But photography? Isn’t photography a depiction of some facts in front of the camera? Yes, it might well be. But at the end of the day, it is merely a representation – a representation that might work differently than a written description, but regardless, it’s still only a representation. Yes, only.

So we should be concerned with the gap, to work with it (not against it) as well as we can. Photographs can only do so many things, beyond which they are utterly powerless, regardless of whether you photograph a beautiful flower or a mangled, burned body. Consequently, looking at images of war photography is not the missing ingredient that will help us understand their events fully. This would be asking for us to understand something that cannot be understood, using a tool that is unable to fulfill that role by construction.

Going briefly back to literature, there is a long canon of writing that centers on veterans coming back home from war. If you read enough of those books, you realize it doesn’t even matter that much whether the soldiers were on the winning or losing side. The gulf that separates those who experienced war from those who didn’t has always been huge, often too huge to be bridged in any meaningful way. And at the center of many of the novels about soldiers coming home often stands the resentment that slowly arises on both sides, soldiers struggling to live in a world where, seemingly, everything is so meaningless and nobody has the faintest idea what they went through, and civilians wondering how to possibly deal with any of that.

To give an example, Erich-Maria Remarque is well known for his novel All Quiet on the Western Front, which chronicles a soldier’s life (and death) in World War I. Quite a bit less well known, unfortunately, is The Road Back, describing in much detail the struggles faced by a group of former soldiers coming back home.

It’s not much of a stretch at all to see the conflict between returning soldiers and civilians mirrored in the reception of war photography, where both sides – photographers and viewers – are engaged in a very similar struggle. Photographers often can’t comprehend how viewers seemingly are so blase about the pictures, whereas viewers just get annoyed about being hit over the head with something that is so alien to them.

On to a) and b), the idea of censorship of war photographs, whether it’s self-imposed or not. Ultimately, this idea is the outcome of the struggle I just talked about. I will admit I have a big problem with b), because however I look at it it’s incredibly dismissive of the audience. If you claim your audience won’t deal with your photographs because they’re not pretty enough (or, to use King’s words, not sufficiently “aesthetically pleasing”), you’re basically telling everybody that you’re on a much more sophisticated level than that audience of, well, rubes, who only want to look at pretty pictures.

While it even might be true that a lot of people – this critic included – love looking at pretty pictures, maybe even of photographs of cats, to pretend that that is the reason why they might not want to look at your pictures of gore really misses quite a few points; and it throws a spanner into a discussion that we actually need to have.

Of course, photojournalists aren’t the only people engaged in this kind of game, because, as far as I can tell, the term “war porn” was created by members of the audience. In a nutshell, if you label someone’s photography “war porn,” you’re trying to use the same mechanism that I just outlined, with the roles reversed. Now it’s the audience who is much more sophisticated than the photographers who – supposedly – provide little more than visual titillation of sorts, parading pictures of gore for the sake of whatever the equivalent of watching sexual pornography might be here.

Both of these approaches to dealing with the problem at hand are incredibly counterproductive, and they lead to little more than bitterness and a festering resentment.

But it is becoming clear that the seemingly different aspects of the conundrum – why don’t we care much about war photography? – are very much closely related.

This leaves us with the aspect of censorship, whether applied by photo editors or self-applied by an audience. The selection process that goes into which photographs are being shown in the press is actually a very good topic that doesn’t get discussed enough (I’m using the word “press” here to talk about any news context, whether it’s an actual newspaper, a magazine, or anything electronic, like a website or an app). For example, has anyone noticed how Western soldiers are treated quite differently than non-Western ones? It seems that the ideas of an individual’s “privacy” or “dignity” have very different meanings for Western and non-Western people in the Western press.

Thus, the idea that photo editors select or decide not to select gruesome images on any kind of general basis is actually quite a bit too simple. And as far as I can tell, there are actually two issues here. The first is whether we need to see the photographs of, say, corpses after an explosion. This is a question about the selection itself and about what we think we need to see. I don’t think we’re talking about this nearly as much as we should.

The second issue is that the selection of photographs by any organization reflects both the societal and cultural background of that organization and the organization’s own bias or ideology.  This means that the selection of images we get to see tells us something about our society and culture and about the news organization at hand. For example, the different visual treatment of Westerners and non-Westerners in the press points to the fact that we simply don’t think they’re equal (our frequent noises about all people being equal notwithstanding). Of course, not all Westerners are treated equally, either. This is a topic that we really should be talking about much more than we do, because it directly reflects out societal and cultural biases concerning power, income, race, sex, etc.

But whether this selection has something to do with war photography is not that clear. I’m tempted to think that war photography merely is a small aspect concerning what we are made to see and what not.

Which leaves us with d), the idea that the public will always rather blame the photographers for what’s in the pictures than whoever is responsible for the actions or events depicted. It’s the “blame the messenger” syndrome. I want to think that in reality, it’s actually quite a bit more complex. For a start, in all these years of me looking at photographs, and reading and writing about them, I can’t remember actually seeing it anywhere. Maybe it exists, I won’t rule it out. But isn’t this essentially voicing the mutual resentment I spoke of earlier, pitting war photographers (who experienced war) against the public (who didn’t)? We need to move away from that because it’s not doing anybody a favour.

Thus, let’s now go back to the war photographs, and to their makers.

To begin with, I think it won’t hurt to say that it’s the role of photojournalists to bring us photographs from events that might matter to us. Obviously, I’m very flexible with the meaning of “might matter.” I have no problem with a photojournalist trying to convince me that some event I haven’t even considered is worthy of my attention. That’s great. That’s what good journalism should do.

That said, a photojournalist’s role is not to change the world any more than it is my role or your role. If some picture manages to change the world, that’s great (it’s incredibly unlikely, but hey, why not). But that’s not the idea.

I think I do understand the general impetus to go to some war to make pictures and to report on what that looks like. I personally could never do that. It’s an incredibly important part of journalism that we, the general audience, could not go without with. But this is only going to work well if we, the audience, are being given the chance to engage with the pictures however we want to or can engage with them. To expect specific reactions by the audience can only lead to the kinds of failures that then might result in the bitterness so often on display by war photographers.

Berating your audience for its inability or unwillingness to engage with a topic you have just photographed, a topic that might include copious amounts of gore, is not going to help anyone. As a matter of fact, in all likelihood it will turn off even more people.

In much the same way, berating photographers for their willingness to engage with a topic that is clearly very disturbing is not going to help anyone, either.

To get out of these mechanisms we have created to deal with war photography, we have to come back to the pictures. It all starts with the pictures. As far as these pictures are concerned, we need to view their role and what they can do more realistically.

Of course, it’s probably the most normal reaction to think that a gruesome photograph will result in much stronger reactions than a photograph of a cute cat. But the reality is that it might not; in fact, it’s very likely that a cat photo will go viral, and a photograph from, say, Syria won’t. If we step back for a second, the bitter disappointment this might cause is actually based to a large degree on what we think the pictures ought to do. A dead body resulting from a bomb explosion matters infinitely more than a cat. However, this doesn’t mean that a photograph of the dead body will automatically matter more than a photograph of a cat. It might not.

Photographs are artifacts. It’s so tempting to forget that, especially when dealing with war photography. A photograph of a dead body is not the same as a dead body, just like a photograph of a cat is not the same as a cat. This distinction really matters. I know it matters in the case of cats (I am writing this from experience). I can imagine it must matter even more in the case of a dead body caused by some bomb – in this case I am only familiar with the pictures.

The only dead body I have ever come across was lying in a street in Paris, someone on a scooter who had been run over by a bus filled with tourists. The body was covered with a tarp of sorts, and there was a line of blood running out from underneath. No photograph of this scene – provided there exists one – will ever have the same effect on me as being there in person, seeing the dead man’s hands stretching out from underneath the tarp, the blood shimmering in the sun.

I don’t know what I would have done, had a I had a camera (this was some time in 1996 or so, when I wasn’t photographing, yet). I’m certain about the following, though: whatever we feel when we’re taking photographs is usually not included in them. As a consequence, we react to photographs in very different ways than when being confronted with the real thing.

It thus poses a big problem if we try to attach an urgency or importance to photographs that they simply cannot carry (or live up to) as the artifacts they are. What this means for the case of war photography is not that it’s a futile endeavour. That would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Instead, we need to be more realistic about what photographs can do, given that they are photographs. In particular, photojournalists might want to realize that the audience’s reaction is not merely based on some very simple logic, parts of which I dissected above.

If we need to start out with the pictures, and if we’re aware of what they can and – crucially – cannot do, this means we probably need to work with war photographs carefully.

Three recently published books might serve as good illustrations of how the work with war photographs can be approached. I already mentioned Christoph Bangert‘s War Porn and Robert King‘s Democratic Desert. I want to add a third book, which I reviewed earlier: Peter van Agtmael‘s Disco Night Sept 11. These three books cover the range of what can be done with photographs from war zones. Each of the books offers a very specific solution to how to present photographs taken over the course of years, to try to engage with an audience. The end results couldn’t be more different. I think it is from the comparison of the approaches that we can gain insight into how photojournalism might succeed in book form (it might be possible to extrapolate from the following how photojournalism might be used in a non-photobook context as well).

Bangert’s book, War Porn, immediately rubbed me the wrong way because of its title. The book itself strikes me as a very sincere effort by a photojournalist to deal with the challenges created by his work. But there’s no way an inflammatory and ultimately cynical term used as the book title is not going to rub off on the book and its content itself. This is most unfortunate.

I will say the following, though. The title of the book provided the impetus for the piece you’re reading here.

The second thing that had me hesitant about the book is its epilogue, which is foreshadowed in the photographer’s essay. Bangert: “My grandfather, who served the Nazi regime, chose to forget what he had seen.” This is problematic for a variety of reasons, the first one being that throwing in the Nazi reference almost immediately does the same thing as using the “war porn” title. Second, as the book’s epilogue makes clear, Bangert’s grandfather was a soldier, and Bangert is not. There is a difference between being a soldier and a photojournalist, given that the former have the guns. While they might see the same things as the latter, they’re also usually responsible for quite a few of the things the latter take pictures of. In other words, a false equivalence is created.

The title and the reference to the grandfather aside, Bangert uses a little trick to approach the presentation of the work: “There are pages in this book that are closed. You can easily open them with a knife or a letter opener. It’s up to you.” These closed pages are perforated pouch pages, and you can’t look in easily. In principle, this is a nifty idea: why not put the onus on the viewer? Let them decide whether they want to look or not! But then, once you’ve bought the book haven’t you already made that decision? Wouldn’t have made more sense to perforate the pages on the other side, so if someone doesn’t want to look at a picture, they can tear out the page?

So I’m a bit torn (please excuse the pun) about the inclusion of the pouch pages. I quite like the idea of forcing decisions on the viewer. That said, in light of what I wrote above, I think it’s a decision that places the onus too much on the viewer, mirroring the general sentiment that people might just not want to deal with the pictures because they’re too graphic or not pretty enough. That’s a problem for me.

If I were in a nasty mood, I’d write that War Porn indeed contains what it promises. There is no shortage of pictures of injured or mutilated people in the book. I have to ask: to what end are they being shown? If you want to take the term “war porn” and extract the one relevant nugget it contains, namely that “war porn” is interested in pictures of gore just for the sake of it, then I’m afraid, you could really just get that from the book. Obviously, you could argue that if someone wants to be so simplistic then let them. But isn’t it a photobook maker’s role to make sure such simple games are being subverted?

As should be clear from what I wrote above, I personally am not interested in the war-porn game. But I’m left to wonder what I learn from the book that I don’t already know? Sadly, I’m not sure. War is terrible, and people’s bodies can get destroyed in all kinds of ways. OK, that I knew already. But beyond that, what am I to make of this? What does the photographer want from me? Contrary to the earlier claim that “If we don’t allow ourselves to look at horrible images, how will we be able to remember events comprehensively” I don’t think any of these photographs has increased my comprehension level one bit. Sorry.

In his essay, Bangert also asks “How can we refuse to acknowledge a mere representation – a picture of – a horrific event, while other people are forced to live through the horrific event itself?” So let me counter-ask: given I have now acknowledged mere representations of horrific events, while other people are forced to live through them, what have I gained, and – crucially – what have those other people gained? This is, I think, what all of these debates around war photography should come down to, but never do: for war photography to have a purpose it needs to be done to some end. It can’t be done for the purpose of just the pictures.

Mind you, the purpose does exist. The role of photojournalism is to help inform people. But the moment you inflate the purpose, the problems stare right at you, especially if you don’t spell out the end the means of which your photographs are supposed to be.

Looking for the sake of looking cannot be the end goal of war photography. No, I’m going to go even further: looking for the sake of looking must not be the end goal of war photography. Looking to get informed, looking to learn more about the world, looking to maybe change your idea about your vote – now we’d be talking. But looking for the sake of looking cheapens everybody involved in the process, the photographer as much as the viewers. And crucially, it adds insult to injury of those whose mutilated bodies we’re looking at.

I don’t believe that that is what Bangert is going for with his book. From what I can tell he is certainly not alone in his desire to make people look at photographs of the result of war to inspire change – of whatever kind – in people: if we all just look at the pictures, instead of ignoring them, then they will finally do the work they were supposed to. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen for the reasons outlined above (remember the unbridgeable gap Elizabeth Shambelan spoke of).  Make no mistake, the book is a step in the right direction: it does ask why these photographs fail to do what we all might agree they should be doing. But it does that with the conclusion already determined a priori.

King’s Democratic Desert, in contrast, betrays none of Bangert’s awareness of war photography’s essential conundrum. Instead, you open the book, and you’re subjected to a barrage of hundreds of photographs taken in Syria. There’s no introduction, no essay (until later). It’s a seemingly endless stream of photographs, of crowds and explosions and people running and dead people and people wailing and people shooting, and on and on it goes, running the full gamut of contemporary photojournalism, including many of the cliches that – sadly – make parts of the genre so unappealing, rendering it so impotent.

To what end this is being done escapes me. I’ll admit I never looked at the whole book in one sitting, not even at larger sections of it.

Now you could just accuse me of not caring. But the reality is that if you use photographs to make me to care beyond the level that I do care already, you’ll have to do a bit more work than throwing the kitchen sink at me.

It might not be your job as a photographer “to aspire towards aesthetically pleasing images of war that are palatable to the public or the photographic community” (let’s ignore the fact that given what the photographic community accepts as picture, the idea of something not being “palatable” seems a bit absurd). But I do think that if you want to make a book it is your job as a photographer to do quite a bit more than to present a huge bunch of pictures, thinking they’ll do the work for you (and if they don’t, then, hey, it’s always the viewers’ fault). That’s not going to work. And it doesn’t work here.

After all, what is at stake in this book? What does this book tell us that we don’t already know? Do we need to see more burned or bloodied corpses, and if yes to what end? What are we supposed to do after having seen the photographs? Should I call my senator and ask them to pressure the president into bombing Syria? Should I call the Red Cross and donate money? What is expected of me? I know from the book that something is expected of me, but what is it?

Make no mistake, I don’t need to get this spelled out. But at least I want to get the feeling that a photobook is more than merely a collection of horrors, that there might be something else happening. I’m not necessarily speaking about hope or redemption or any of the tropes that are bandied around so often. I’m speaking about something that gives me the feeling there is a way for me to go forward as a viewer, to become a slightly different and, ideally, better person than before, a person that can hopefully contribute a little more to trying to solve the world’s ills. That’s what I’m talking about here. And sadly, this is entirely absent in Democratic Desert.

But why would a book filled with war photography be concerned with the viewers, concerned with what it does to the viewers? Isn’t it all about those whose mangled bodies are on display inside? Well, yes and no. As I outlined above, photojournalism has a very specific purpose, and I strongly believe it must follow that purpose regardless of what is in the pictures. The purpose is to inform an audience, and the purpose is so important that most photojournalists – rightly – stay out of any event they’re photographing. In addition, photojournalism is journalism. The goal of journalism is to inform an audience properly (or at least it should be – if you work for Fox News you probably disagree). The goal is not to essentially do PR for one side of a war, however much you might actually be on that side.

What can be done with war photography was just demonstrated by Peter van Agtmael in his book Disco Night Sept 11. For a start, Van Agtmael mostly skirted around the problems of photojournalism, and where he mentioned them he made them personal. As I discussed above, the problems of photojournalism have quite a bit to do with photographers and the public. But starting closest to what you know – yourself – seems like the best way to approach the topic. Much like Bangert and King, Van Agtmael went to war with a camera because he felt compelled to do so. Much like Bangert and King, Van Agtmael witnessed and photographed horrible events. But unlike King, and somewhat in line with what Bangert was trying to do, but on a much deeper level, Van Agtmael connected his photographs to the strands of life we are all connected to.

To somehow attempt to bridge the gap between those who experienced war – whether as participants or as picture-taking witnesses – and those who didn’t, you first have to acknowledge the existence of the gap and, crucially, the fact that it cannot be made to disappear by fiat (or denial).

In Disco Night Sept 11, the photographs have text added to them, which provides another dimension. Of course, the moment you add text, photography changes. The big question always is whether photographs need text or not. I don’t think there is a one-size-fits-all answer. In the context of photojournalism, text can be immensely helpful – a fact that is widely known since the days of the photojournalistic essay.

In this book, the text serves a variety of larger purposes. For a start, it provides context to the pictures, and it interconnects them. At the same time, it also lifts a weight off their shoulders: the weight I spoke of earlier, when I talked about how there are all those expectations connected to gruesome photographs. Those expectations are tremendously hard to fulfill. Photographs can only do so much. What is more, a lot of what went on when the pictures were made is not in the pictures, because it cannot be. The best solution is to acknowledge that, instead of fighting a Don Quixote style struggle against it.

Text can help make things easier. Text can add a dimension to photography that the photographic medium does not possess. As I said, photographs don’t necessarily need text per se. But in the context of war photography, I’m almost tempted to think that the inclusion of text can be crucial, to avoid the struggles I outlined above.

Lastly, the text also ties our – the viewer’s – world to that of the portrayed. Van Agtmael himself is moving back and forth – the resulting struggle is beautifully explored.

If I see a picture of a corpse it will always be a picture of a corpse – unless there’s a hook that I can’t escape from. If there is a hook, then suddenly, things move away from the photograph – I might become implicated or moved. Usually, the hook will not be provided by any single picture. A combination of pictures might do the trick, added text might as well.

Most crucially, the photographs in Disco Night Sept 11 serve a larger purpose that very clearly transcends them. All of the limitations of photojournalism are present, all of the struggles a photographer going to war zones has to deal with, many of the struggles soldiers have to deal with while being at war and afterwards.

That small subsection of the country that decided to go to war is being re-made a part of part of our society again, and all the struggles are spelled out. We are, in effect, being indicted – not for not looking at gory pictures, but rather for having sent these young women and men abroad for the rather lousy wars they had to fight, and for being unable to take care of them properly now that they’re back. It’s not just their war, it’s our damn war!

Needless to say, the context of Van Agtmael’s book is different than King’s – a book about the war in Syria obviously has to deal with an external war (just for the record, while it’s bad writing to use the same word – war – over and over again, I simply refuse to gloss over what is at stake by calling it a “conflict”). In much the same way, Bangert’s collection of pictures comes from many different countries. In other words, we, the viewers, cannot be involved in the same way in these three collections of pictures, at least not as far as the events covered are concerned. But still… Van Agtmael’s book shows the way.

I have little patience for those who claim that photojournalism is dead. Photojournalism serves a very important purpose. And we should be made to look at the pictures war photographers bring home. But whatever the result might be, it has to serve an end, an end other than being made to look at gory pictures, an end that acknowledges the unbridgeable gap between those who experienced war and those who didn’t. Unbridgeable as it might be, there can still be connections made, connections that allow both sides to learn from one another, connections that allow a public to learn something, even though they weren’t there where the bombs were falling.

War Porn; photographs and essay by Christoph Bangert; 192 pages; Kehrer; 2014

Rating: Photography 2, Book Concept 3.5, Edit 3, Production 3.5 – Overall 2.9

Democratic Desert; photographs by Robert King; essay by Anthony Llyod; 256 pages (incl. DVD); Schilt; 2014

Rating: Photography 1.5, Book Concept 1, Edit 3, Production 3 – Overall 2.0

previously reviewed:

Disco Night Sept 11; photographs and text by Peter van Agtmael; 276 pages; Red Hook Editions; 2014

Rating: Photography 4, Book Concept 5, Edit 4, Production 4 – Overall 4.3

(ratings explained here)