ATS3114 - The camera at war: Combat photography and the visual language of conflict - 2017

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

School of Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Associate Professor Kevin Foster

Not offered in 2017


Through lectures, seminars, workshops, and a field trip the unit will study how war photography from across the globe has developed a grammar of its own, referencing the visual arts and the broader history of photography, which has served to powerfully shape perceptions of and responses to war from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. It will examine how the photographic representation of conflict has been informed and inflected by a range of constraints and influences - cultural, technological, commercial, and political. It will examine specific case studies to demonstrate how particular images have framed, fixed and challenged the public's understanding of the conduct and purposes of particular conflicts. The unit will examine the work of both professional and amateur photographers, it will consider the formal regimes of censorship, propaganda, collection and distribution whereby photographs are prepared for or withheld from public release and/or archived in museums and galleries. The unit will equip students with the skills necessary to offer a sophisticated reading of the photograph and encourage them to interrogate how, why, for whom and with what purposes visual images of conflict are framed, formed, encoded and deployed, and how over time, in different geographical and cultural contexts, these images have emerged and developed.


Upon successful completion of the unit students will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an informed understanding of the history of war photography from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day;
  2. articulate an advanced understanding of how technological advances have informed the development of war photography;
  3. investigate the role of artistic precedents, cultural norms, commercial considerations, and differing political priorities in framing the visual representation of specific conflicts;
  4. demonstrate a sophisticated grasp of the editorial, censorship and record-keeping processes dictating the release and/or storage of war photographs in differing conflicts;
  5. apply the theoretical concepts of semiotics, framing and inter-textuality to the reading and evaluation of particular images;
  6. demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the professional achievements of specific photographers from across the globe;
  7. apply a cross-cultural, comparative understanding of how contrasting national narratives around war have informed its differing visual representation;
  8. apply their advanced understanding of the history and culture of photographic representation to compile an online exhibition and accompanying catalogue/exegesis detailing the visual record of a specific campaign, conflict, theme or the work of a particular photographer.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of second-year Arts units.