Recently, I have become a great photography fan. This comes from my utter desire to become a good photographer. I’ve never thought of anything of the kind, but now this desire occupies all my thoughts.
Anyway, I started to study the history of photography and came across a very interesting topic. It concerns the tradition of German photography of the World War II period.
The fact is that what first was just a tradition of simple taking photos transformed into a whole ritual, a weapon.
Photography had never before been such a part of a military machine as it turned out to be in Germany during the war period. In 1933 Adolf Hitler decided to process the rebuilding of the Wehrmacht system. He wanted to stress the propagandist character of the German politics and for this purpose photographers were of great need! In the process of recruiting in order to save their lives and avoid being cruelly killed, many photographers joined the Wehrmacht system as volunteers adopting the Nazi philosophy because of their pure fear.
Along with the total neglect towards other peoples lives and lack of respect towards their death, it was an absolute taboo, for example, to make pictures of dead German soldiers. On the contrary, German photography included lots of pics with dead Jews, prisoners of war and the victimization of captives.
All the photographers working for the German military machine were employed as propaganda independent creators, but still they had the strict rules of presenting information. They were to make German soldiers daunt. The pictures were to show the might and power of the Nazi system, they had to be frightful. Telling only one issue – we are going to subject you, beware. I don’t wanna say it didn’t have any results. I mean, seeing a human being absolutely calm and stable with the background of corpses and ruins is really dreadful. It arouses bodily fear even now, when everything is over. But nevertheless, many independent photographers risked to take photos, which were not extolling the German military system. On the contrary, they were real. The snapshots of real sufferings and grief brought by the war. These pics became available many years after the war was over.
Besides the employed photographs, any German soldier was encouraged to have a camera in their bags to take amateur photos. These pics became an inexplicable part of the young military men writing to their native cities and families. The most shocking fact is that the members of their families considered it OK to receive letters with the pics of the dead in the envelope. That was a bow to the regime all German citizens were devoted to.
Anyway, the typical characteristic of the amateur photos was some kind of surprising addiction towards the horrors of the war. The tendency of filming mass shootings was even introduced. Still from some moment photographing and filming of such events was forbidden by Heinrich Himmler the head of the SS as the issue “discrediting thewhole military system of Germany”.
The argument continues even today. Some people consider it excessive to public the photos of war today, because they are dreadful and disgusting. Others think that in order to show the full horror and suffering the war brings, it’s obligatory to make the possibility to watch such pics open. Nothing can teach better than this kind of explicit material. I’m still controversial towards the problem. Can this kind of visual art teach something or it’s only fear and sadness left after seeing this? I don’t know.