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What the liberator saw: British war photography, Picture Post and the Normandy Campaign

Gorrara, Claire ORCID: 2016. What the liberator saw: British war photography, Picture Post and the Normandy Campaign. Journal of War and Culture Studies 9 (4) , pp. 303-318. 10.1080/17526272.2016.1159003

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This article examines the photographs of British Army stills photographers who accompanied Allied infantry, tank, and airborne units on the Normandy campaign from June to September 1944. These photographs are rarely commented upon as aesthetic objects in their own right or interrogated as primary historical documents. This article aims to make visible this substantial body of work, held today in the Imperial War Museum, and to identify and analyse the multivalent narratives of the Normandy campaign such images represent. It will contend that such photographs and their captions are traversed by and constructed through British scripts of war that go beyond the photograph's role as visually marking actual historical events. Such photographs helped shape interpretations of not only the prosecution of war in Normandy but also of France as an ambivalent wartime ally — both victor and victim of the Second World War. They were an important vector for the cultural construction (and rehabilitation) of France in the summer of 1944 and played a vital role in establishing the coordinates of France's war story for British readers. By examining these and other front-line photographs published in the popular illustrated magazine Picture Post, this article will argue in favour of a contextual approach to British war photography and its representations of the Normandy campaign. It will analyse how, in this case, rather than representing the Norman population as the passive recipients of liberation, a view prevalent in Allied historical accounts of the period, Picture Post mobilized official British war photographs to depict the common humanity of French and British experiences of war. In so doing, Picture Post's visual narrative promoted the value of intercultural understanding and tolerance at a critical juncture in Anglo–French relations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Modern Languages
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D731 World War II
T Technology > TR Photography
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 1752-6272
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 April 2016
Date of Acceptance: 23 February 2016
Last Modified: 05 May 2023 01:34

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