War Photographer by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem which explores the theme of moral ambiguity.

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Poetry Essay – War Photographer                                         

Task: Choose a poem which explores an issue important to today’s society. Explain what the issue is and go on to show how the poet has conveyed this issue

        “War Photographer” by Carol Ann Duffy is a poem which explores the theme of moral ambiguity in the field of war photography which is important in today's society. The poet has conveyed this issue through the eyes and thoughts of a war photographer and highlights the controversy surrounding this profession.

        In the first stanza the reader is first introduced to the theme of moral ambiguity through the photographer’s job being portrayed as a noble profession. The photographer has just returned from an assignment and he is developing his most recent photos:

        “In his dark room he is finally alone”

The face that he is “finally alone” suggests that he has been in very busy surroundings till now. Only after returning home has he been given the chance to process the scenes of violence and horror he has seen abroad. The phrase suggests that even when he is not on duty his mind is still thinking about his work and this emphasises the stress he is under relating to his job. At the start of the poem, Duffy conveys that there is no moral issue in taking pictures of suffering. She re-enforces the image as the photographer sets out the spools of photographic film into “ordered rows”. The word “rows” has connotations of the headstones in a graveyard. This is relevant as the poet could be suggesting that the mass burials during a war are very impersonal and the photographer is actually conducting a funeral for these people. Duffy describes the photographer as a:

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        “Priest preparing to intone a mass”

By using the simile “as though...he a priest” the photographer is conveyed as almost giving each war victim a proper burial. The line also sets a sombre and respectful tone as though the reader were at a funeral. The religious allusion of “priest” and “mass” contrasts the violent and harsh scene of war and brings some type of peace to the image. This message of the photographer bringing peace to the war is important as it portrays his job as a respectful one which does not come to mind when considering the profession of ...

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