War Photographer - Carol Ann Duffy (born 1955)

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  • Created on: 23-05-19 02:42

Photography

  • The speaker describes a war photographer developing photos in his dark room.
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Pictures

  • The pictures depict huge suffering.
  • But the speaker describes how most people will glance over a few of them in the newspaper from the comfort of their safe home.
  • The speaker says they won't understand fully or do anything about, what they see.
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Poet

  • Carol Ann Duffy is a Scottish poet who was appointed Britain's Poet Laureate in 2009.
  • She has won several awards, including an OBE for services to poetry.
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Inspiration

  • Duffy’s own friendship with a war photographer is the inspiration behind the poem.
  • She explores the complex and potentially controversial role of a war photographer, who is so close to horrific events but can do nothing to help.
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Purpose

  • Carol Ann Duffy highlights how people in the West are isolated from the horrors of war in other parts of the world.
  • We are therefore desensitised to the suffering and only read about it before turning the page to something else.
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Structure and Rhythm of War Photographer

The poem follows an ABBCDD rhyme scheme. The focus of the poem is constantly changing to show different perspectives on war.

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Changing focus

  • The focus of the poem moves from:
    • The photographer.
    • To the images of war zones he developed.
    • To the lack of care of those living a safe life in the West.
    • To a brief reflection of the nonchalance (lack of interest or empathy) of the photojournalist towards the suffering.
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ABBCDD rhyme scheme

  • The ABBCDD rhyme scheme in each stanza, with most lines being 10 syllables, seems a bit muddled.
  • It could reflect the photographer’s futile (useless) attempt to establish order in a chaotic and distressing situation.
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Contrast: Home and Away

The contrast between the comfortable and safe lives of those in countries unaffected by war, and the indescribable horror of those living in war-torn countries is a running theme throughout the poem.

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Images of comfort

  • Rural England
  • Ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel
  • Sunday supplement
  • Eyeball’s ***** with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers”.
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Images of pain

  • Running children in nightmare heat
  • Cries of this man’s wife
  • Blood-stained
  • Fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
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Uncaring attitudes

One of the biggest contrasts in the poem is the uncaring attitude of people at home compared to the terrible suffering going on in war.

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Caesura / one word sentence

  • Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh.
  • These one-word sentences/caesura (breaks in the line) give the poem a stop-start feel.
  • This could reflect the casual and dismissive tone of those unaffected by suffering.
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Characters

  • The editor in the poem and those who browse the images on a Sunday morning represent these uncaring attitudes.
  • They represent the lack of empathy or thought that some people have for those affected by war.
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Role of war photographer

Carol Ann Duffy uses War Photographer to explore the complex and potentially controversial role of a war photographer. A war photographer is close to horrific events but can do nothing to help.

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Practical approach to work

  • The poem has a generally neat and ordered form on the page.
  • This could mimic the way war photographers have to have a practical, emotionless approach to their work as they face the chaos of war.
  • It could also signify the photographer’s serious and careful approach to his work.
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Relief

  • The opening phrase “finally alone” indicates a sense of relief. The photographer is able to separate himself from what he has seen and begin to process it.
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Horrific events

  • Carol Ann Duffy lets us see the horrors of war through the war photographer.
  • Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh.”
    • The caesura (breaks in the line) and one-word sentences could reflect the photographer slowly considering each country suffering from war and respecting them.
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Religious imagery

The photographer is compared to a priest in the poem. Other biblical imagery reflects the idea that human life is temporary.

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Quote: “All flesh is grass”

  • This points out the scale of bloodshed and creates a gruesome image in the readers’ head.
  • This is also a line from the Bible that means human life is temporary.
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Stanza 1

  • The war photographer is associated with a priest:
    • as though this were a church and he / a priest, preparing to intone a mass
    • The only light is red and softly glows” (a reference to a continuous red light in Catholic churches that symbolises Christ’s presence).
  • This paints the photographer as respectful towards and committed to his work.
  • Like a priest, he too is faced with suffering.
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Images of horror

The poet uses horrific images to make the reader understand the intensity of the suffering caused by war. Here are some examples:

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“Running children in nightmare heat”

  • He refers to children to remind the reader of the innocent lives affected by war.
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“A hundred agonies in black and white”

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“Spools of suffering set out in ordered rows”

  • The photographer is trying to make sense of something so horrific being in order.
  • This is emphasised by the sibilance.
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Key Quotations in War Photographer

Here are some quotations you might want to remember for your exam:

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“Spools of suffering set out in ordered rows”

  • Imagery/metaphor.
  • This quote hints at the photographer’s efforts to make sense of and order something so horrific.
  • There is a contrast between what the photographer tries to do and the reality of conflict.
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“Running children in nightmare heat"

  • This quote is designed to make the reader understand the intensity of the suffering caused by war.
  • Duffy refers to children to remind the reader of the innocent lives affected by war.
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"All flesh is grass"

  • Biblical imagery and a metaphor.
  • This quote points out the scale of bloodshed and creates a gruesome image in the readers’ head.
  • This is also a line from the Bible that means human life is temporary.
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“The reader’s eyeballs ***** / with tears..."

  • The reader’s eyeballs ***** / with tears, between the bath and pre-lunch beers
  • This quote shows the comfort of those at home who are not directly affected by war.
  • This image contrasts with the images of pain that run throughout the poem.
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“A hundred agonies in black and white”

This quote is designed to make the reader understand the intensity of the suffering caused by war.

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Comparisons: War Photographer

Here are some themes that come up in War Photographer and other texts.

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Reality of conflict/effects of conflict

  • On the theme of the reality of conflict, you might want to compare War Photographer to:
    • Remains.
    • Bayonet Charge.
    • Poppies.
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Conflicting emotions

  • On the theme of conflicting emotions, you might want to compare War Photographer to:
    • Kamikaze.
    • Remains.
    • The Emigree.
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