Ernst Junger and Anthony Nassar, “War and Photography”

Ernst Junger and Anthony Nassar, “War and Photography”, New German Critique, 59: Spring-Summer 1993.
Stable Jstor link.

“A war that is distinguished by the high level of technical precision required to wage it, is bound to leave behind documents more numerous and varied than battles waged in earlier times, less present to consciousness”. p. 24

I think this shows a bit at the extent to which “contemporary history” is sometimes too eager to pronounce the divergence or distinctiveness of the present, to see time’s arrow moving in a particular direction. Because it doesn’t seem so now: so many of the wars fought between 1993-2013 have been unphotographed, undocumented, undescribed. Even the war in Iraq and Afghanistan after 2001 less so in its battlefields and more so in its occupations, and most famously so against the will of those who planned the war–who were undone in part by the ubiquity of personal photography. E.g., Abu Ghraib was photographed not because of an official desire for documentation but because almost anyone can create photographic and violent spectacle now. Humanists aren’t any better at being futurists than anyone else, I think–the projection into a future seems to be the way to deliver an authority about one’s readings of the present. But I should appreciate more the context I guess in which Junger was perceived to be reading this shift or change.

“For the attentive observer, a collection of such optical documents opens the way for a valuation of war not only as a succession of battles, but in its essence, as labor as well. In particular, the viewer is offered a singular view of horror and of the desolation of a landscape that will in all probability never be repeated.” p. 25

“Weapons are becoming continually more abstract, developing in stride with the technological world in general; increased mechanization makes them more mobile and effective at greater distances. One could guess that the army of engines which will carry these weapons across the land and through the air will no longer tolerate an extended stalemate on the front…”p. 25

Seems to me a huge difference between those photographs/videos created as spectacle, those deposited as document, and those captured by presence and accident…

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