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Photography’s Impact on Society Research Paper

Photography effects on war

Photography in the modern society is important and contributes positively to the life of human beings. This article is about ways through which society has progressed as result of photography. This paper is about the impact of photography on war. Louis Daguerre did not begin photography but his invention of the metal plate, which could produce photos within thirty minutes, had a major contribution in the field of photography.

This ability to capture and store images so that it is possible to view them in future explains what photography is. Photography has transformed the world where it has enabled the storage of memorable events for future reference making it easy for anyone to remember important events.

The society has been able to have perception of reality through what they see in photos. This means that even though someone did not have a real experience in an event or someone on seeing a photo he or she perceived as if that was the reality (Todd, 2009).

Photography and war history

Human warfare is one of the oldest aspects of human existence, and many historical narrations have narratives of battles, which have taken place since time immemorial. However, there was no better way of narrating those events except through photos. The photography depicting sceneries of war and massacre have done a lot in reducing human warfare as its effects on people make them fear war and avoid it at all costs.

The pictures taken from scenes of dying soldiers in the American civil war are some of the reasons that evoked strong emotions, which led to the end of the war. The reality brought about by photography is of major effect to everyone. Photos taken from Vietnam War or even the American civil war are evidence of this development.

Photos from the Second World War are some of the stories that have been used to show war photography. Photos of devastated Hiroshima and Fukushima after the United States of America dropped the atomic bombs on the two cities remain engraved in the heart of many concerning the dangers of nuclear and atomic weapons. This was the last time in the world to use atomic bombs and it is still remembered.

The role which photography played to portray those scenarios is important. It is certain that such weapons would still be in use if there were no means of recording the reality of what happened after attack through the two bombs. Photography is therefore critical in shaping the course of war all over the world.

Kyoto protocol is one of the developments that were implemented to take care of the dangers caused by the use of atomic weapons in war (Joel, 1994).

The photos from Vietnam War showing suffering American soldiers changed the public mood about the Vietnam War and this led to the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam. It is evident that photos influenced the war in Afghanistan, which has led to withdrawal of American soldiers from the troops. Photos of soldiers harassing the civilians resulted to public outcry against the occupation of American soldiers in Afghanistan.

The image of dead Osama bin Laden made it certain that Bin Laden was no more. Without the evidence of the photos of his capture and death, the information that he was dead could not be true. Likewise, the images and photos of Gaddafi and his capture ascertained that the strong man was already dead. This shows how the photography has shaped the perception of reality.

Without photos, the information on the newspapers would not be credible and they would have a certain degree of doubt. The photos enable people to have certainty that the information provided is real. Although with digital technology, it is possible to alter images and maneuver them, the public are still relying on images as the source of reality and truth (Gustafson, 2011).

Photography and promoting rights of civilians

There is a tendency of the conflicting parties to abuse the rights one another. This happens to the innocent young children and vulnerable women. When the young children are denied their right, it becomes difficult to be taken care of because it goes without being noted by the relevant authority. Photography has however changed this aspect in a great way through providing photos of different scenes.

War journalists are capable of predicting the reality and cases of torture and abuse of civilians by the armies in a way, which is real in order to provide information to the public. Photos of young children who were fighting for their rights have been appreciated and respected all over the world. The Congolese warlord Lubanga was jailed after trial by the international criminal court for violating the rights of young children.

The evidence used against him consisted of photos of young children in uniform of the army. The other pictures that were used to show the violation of human rights were in the case of the Darfur in Sudan where genocide occurred and mass slaughter of civilians by the government forces.

The depiction of such genocide would be impossible without photography. This has made the President of Sudan Omar al Bashir to be accused for crimes against humanity (Gustafson, 2011).

Photography in military search and rescue

The other aspect of war where photography use is common is in search and rescue missions. Modern photography is not based on the white light alone because they have X-ray films that are sensitive to the X- rays from any source.

There are films, which are also sensitive to the infrared and have been used in search and rescue mission helicopters or in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that identify a warm human being who is in a cold background. This has enhanced search and rescue operations during war as the soldiers may use the unmanned aerial vehicles to identify the location of their lost soldiers in the dark as well as in the territory of the enemy.

This aspect of search and rescue has not only been used for war purposes but also in search and rescue of people in calamities such as Hurricane Katrina and Tsunamis (Todd, 2009).

Photography and war intelligence

Photography has also changed the scope of war on the aspect of spying the enemy territory. With the advent of digital technology and the creation of films with forty mega pixels or more it is now easy for the country to locate the hiding places of the enemies and take pictures showing the topography and geography for further study.

This has improved the efficiency of spying where spy cameras are mounted on satellites with orbit around the world and they are used to take pictures in different places where a particular country want to study or to spy. Recently, there has been uproar against North Korea launching a satellite, as it may be intending to spy the enemies.

The recent development of micro cameras that are tiny with the capability of storing images has changed intelligence of war. Due to the rise of cases of terrorism in many nations, there has been need for the nations to protect themselves against terrorism. This has made many countries to use the secret micro cameras for monitoring people as well as their activities.

Hotels and supermarkets are some of the places, which have used this surveillance. The supermarkets and homes are secure because with such cameras information is recorded and it is retrievable if need arises or if there is investigation to be done.

However, not all people have appreciated this development of micro cameras with accusations of invasion of privacy directed toward photography. Cases of crime have significantly reduced because of installation of micro cameras. Security in offices where cameras are used is high and efficient compared to offices, which do not have micro cameras (Waterbuck, 2001).

Photography and storage of classified military information

The other area that photography has great influence regards data storage. Many nations after awareness of attacks by their enemies store their security data and classified information in films. The films are part of photography and are used to make work easier. With the advent of digital technology scanning of huge amount of documents nowadays and producing them as new documents is the norm.

This has made it possible for conversion of ancient texts and books found in libraries into digital formats. These digital formats are convenient to store a lot of information in small portions. Many armies have since time immemorial has stored a lot of files and inventories, which consumed a lot of space.

Photography has enabled scanning of these documents in a way that they are typed and stored in digital formats. Medical records involving soldier’s health such as X- ray’s scans are nowadays stored in digital format, which make it possible for easy tracking of the patient’s medical history (Prasad, 2005).


Photography has influenced the society in different ways some of which are positive while others are negative. The influence of photography in war is one of the positive ways in which photography has influenced the society. Prevention of many issues with tendencies to escalate into war by solving them using other mechanism such as economic embargo and no fly zones is the norm.

Human beings all over the world have worked to ensure that war is the last option after seeing its devastating effects. Without photography, nuclear weapons would still be in use as it would be difficult to express its effects without the realism which photography brings across.

The intrusion of privacy is questionable in terms of ethics in photography and is one of the major aspects ignored by the modern photographers. Nevertheless, the role played by photography in changing the world receives appreciation from all people. The influence of photography all over the world is evident with photos being part of life and thereby creating a situation where their use and appreciation is for everyone.


Gustafson, T. (2011). 500 cameras: 170 years of photographic innovation. New York: George Eastman House.

Joel, L. (1994). Bystander: A history of War photography: Boston, Boston Press.

Prasad, S. (2005). Digital photography in War United Kingdom: York Hospitals NHS Trust.

Todd, L. (2009). Role of photography today. New York: Oxford University Press.

Waterbuck, C. (2001). The sidewalk never ends street photography since the 1970s. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago.

This Research Paper on Photography’s Impact on Society was written and submitted by user Teagan Cantrell to help you with your own studies. You are free to use it for research and reference purposes in order to write your own paper; however, you must cite it accordingly.

Teagan Cantrell studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA, with average GPA 3.18 out of 4.0.

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Cantrell, T. (2020, January 15). Photography’s Impact on Society [Blog post]. Retrieved from

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Cantrell, Teagan. "Photography’s Impact on Society." IvyPanda, 15 Jan. 2020,

1. Teagan Cantrell. "Photography’s Impact on Society." IvyPanda (blog), January 15, 2020.


Cantrell, Teagan. "Photography’s Impact on Society." IvyPanda (blog), January 15, 2020.


Cantrell, Teagan. 2020. "Photography’s Impact on Society." IvyPanda (blog), January 15, 2020.


Cantrell, T. (2020) 'Photography’s Impact on Society'. IvyPanda, 15 January.

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