'War Photographer' - Key Quotations

"In his dark room he is finally alone"

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The opening line of the poem, in which we are introduced to the central character and his location - the photographer in his dark room, where his photos are developed.

THEMES:

Memory; Isolation

LANGUAGE:

Adverb = "finally" implies that he has wanted to be alone for a long time. This could literally mean being away from other people, but may also suggest that in his dark room he can escape from his experiences.

"with spools of suffering set out in ordered rows"

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The dark room is described.

THEMES:

Memory; Suffering

LANGUAGE:

A 'spool' is a cylindrical object that has photographic film wrapped around it.

Sibilance = the repeated 's' sound emphasises the dark content in his photos.

"as though this were a church and he

a priest preparing to intone a Mass.

Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass."

- STANZA 1 -

CONTEXT:

The photographer prepares to develop his photographs.

THEMES:

Religion; Violence

LANGUAGE:

Juxtaposition = the idea of religion is contrasted by the locations he has visited that are ravaged by war and conflict.

Metaphor = "All flesh is grass" emphasises how fragile and delicate life is. The speaker points to an idea that life is meaningless, or at least that it is considered to be so by those who aren't at war.

"beneath his hands, which did not tremble then

though seem to now"

- STANZA 2 -

CONTEXT:

The photographer begins to develop the photographs.

THEMES:

Memory; PTSD

LANGUAGE:

Irony = the speaker indicates that the photographer had steady hands when he was in the middle of the conflict, where he was in the most danger, and yet now, in the safety of his own home, he begins to tremble. This points to the photographer suffering from PTSD.

"Something is happening. A stranger's features

faintly start to twist before his eyes,

a half-formed ghost."

- STANZA 3 -

CONTEXT:

The photographs are developing and their content is becoming clear.

THEMES:

Memory; Violence; Pain; Death

LANGUAGE/STRUCTURE:

Caesura = the full stop creates a pause, slowing the pace and changing the tone to build tension.

Double interpretation = "faintly start to twist" could mean that the photo is beginning to take shape, but it could also suggest that the person in the image was in pain.

Metaphor = "half-formed ghost" implies that the photo is in the process of developing, but it could also suggest that the person in the image was killed.

"The reader's eyeballs prick

with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers."

- STANZA 4-

CONTEXT:

The final stanza of the poem, in which the speaker contemplates how these photographs will be used by the newspapers.

THEMES:

Passivity; Legacy

LANGUAGE:

Juxtaposition = the noun "tears" is embedded in a line with "bath" and "pre-lunch beers", two very common, familiar things. This suggests that even though these photos are incredibly powerful and emotional to the photographer because of the memories they carry, to the ordinary citizen seeing them in a newspaper, they carry next to no worth or impact.

"From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where

he earns his living and they do not care."

- STANZA 4-

CONTEXT:

The final stanza of the poem, in which the speaker contemplates how these photographs will be used by the newspapers.

THEMES:

Passivity; Legacy

LANGUAGE:

Adverb = "impassively" suggests he is void of emotion - he is numb.

Declarative = "they do not care" creates a tone of accusation and anger. The speaker seems to be pointing a finger at the people who see his photographs and accusing them of not caring about the lives lost or the pain that war causes.