War Photography and Related Media

Fall 2005

Thurs. 2-6PM, West Hall 214


Kathleen Ruiz, Associate Professor of Electronic Arts



War Photography and Related Media is a studio course with short seminars where multiple perspectives of war imagery and media are explored. The essential elements of conflict and how it is captured visually and aurally throughout history are examined. Through film screenings, images and personal accounts, students become aware of multiple perspectives of looking at the same conflict. Short studies exploring notions of conflict and response lead to a student directed final project which comments on a major theme of possible resolution.



Conflicts abide worldwide, from disagreements with others to outright wars. Ancient China, the American Civil War, World War I and II, the Irish/English conflict, the Arab-Israeli War, Civil wars, the Vietnam War, the Civil Wars of Africa, Desert Storm, and the on-going Iraqi War are historical events which offer territories of study for learning conflict resolution.


Why do we want to see images of War? Them and us?


What would a Department of Peace look/sound like?


Is War really part of the human condition?


Can simulation be a potent tool to help us recognize different points of view?


Can we use technology, which many times comes from military research, to help us understand instead of annihilate?





Susan Sontag,  Regarding the Pain of Others

Sun Tzu, The Art of War, The oldest military treatise in the world. http://www.chinapage.com/sunzi-e.html

Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/debord/society.htm





Short Studies: notions of conflict and response


Due Sept 15

* Create a photomontage about war (using found images) which particularly affected you or your family.


Due Sept 22

* Create a photomontage about peace (using found images) which relates to your family in the event war did not occur.


Due Sept 29

* Create a War game plan map (pencil on vellum drawing)


Due Oct 6

* Create a Resolution game plan map (pencil on vellum drawing)


Due Oct 20

* Create a photo essay about conflict in your environment (using your original imagery)


Due Oct 27

* Create a photo essay about resolution in your environment (using your original imagery)


Due Nov 10

* Create a simulation and show multiple points of view


Final Project:

An artwork or essay which comments on a major theme of possible resolution to world conflict

Due Dec 1 Project Pre Reviews

Due Dec 8 All Final Projects





Possible Films:


Regret to Inform 1998 – USA,  A documentary that premiered in competition at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, Regret to Inform analyzes the Vietnam War from the point of view of the women who lost the men they loved. Interweaving interviews with American and Vietnamese women, the film also centers on the documentary filmmaker Barbara Sonneborn, who learned on her 24th birthday that her husband (and sweetheart of ten years) died in the war. Twenty years later, Barbara takes her camera to Vietnam to retrace the final steps of her husband, hoping to finally set aside her unanswered questions. Through Sonneborn and the women she meets, viewers are reminded of the horrors of war and see that a single bullet has an effect far beyond the body it hits.


Photomontage Today: Peter Kennard



Zygosis, a film by Gavin Hodge & Tim Morrison about John Heartfield, the anti-Nazi German satirist who pioneered the photomontage


War Photographer,
about photojournalist Jame Nachtwey by Christ
ian Frei

Ran, a film by Akira Kurosawa

The famous Japanese filmmaker uses Shakeapear’s King Lear to tell the story of an old man’s quest for meaning within and incomprehensible, unframed war. To enable the audience to see the clash of armies, Kurosawa silences their clashing armor and the screams of the wounded before he immerses the carnage in music. He imposes a spectacular order on chaos.


21 Days to Baghdad Takes a comprehensive look at Operation Iraqi Freedom, from the military buildup and the shock and awe campaign to the fire-fight in Basra and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue. With spectacular footage never before seen in the U.S. and emotional first-hand accounts of soldiers, reporters and National Geographic's award-winning production team, 21 Days to Baghdad will provide an exclusive, insider's look at war strategy and the pivotal moments of the war".


War Spin: the Media and the Iraq War Originally broadcast in 2003 as a documentary from the BBC series: Correspondent. Reporter, John Kampfner. Summary In his report, John Kampfner skeptically analyzes the heroic reports of the ambush, capture, and rescue of Private Jessica Lynch, calling them misrepresentations designed to bolster weak support for the Iraq war effort.

Basic Camera Techinques, BCTE


Images in Media A behind-the-scenes look at the media's image-makers, from the first photographers to today's Madison Avenue wizards; asks some disturbing questions about the self-selected few who hold a distorted mirror up to our society.


American Photography: A Century of Images The story of the pictures we have taken and where they have taken us. The series traces the profound effect photographs have had on American life-- influencing what we buy, how we dress, how we get the news, and in the matters of life and death, medicine, science, and war.


Fälschung, Die (Circle of Deceit) Volker Schlöndorff (English) olker Schlondorff's CIRCLE OF DECEIT eloquently captures the chaos of war through the eyes of German journalist Georg (Bruno Ganz). As his marriage quickly degrades, Georg decides to escape to war-torn Beirut, where he hopes to document the country's civil war in an essay for his newspaper. Along with his photographer friend Hoffman (Jerzy Skolimowski), he finds himself immersed in the immediacy of the violence -- dodging bullets and conducting interviews with dangerous subjects.


Live from Baghdad, This HBO Films production mixes breakneck excitement, biting humor and blistering drama in telling the behind-the-scenes true story of how brash CNN producer Robert Wiener (Michael Keaton) and his resourceful team made history, and reported it, during the onset of the 1991 Gulf War. Arriving in Baghdad, Wiener and co-producer Ingrid Formanek (Helena Bonham Carter) contend with numerous logistical, technical and political challenges as they attempt to report on the situation in Baghdad as war looms. While feeding stories to a hungry 24-hour news network under the scrutiny of Iraqi censorship and Saddam's propaganda efforts, the two producers must stay ahead of the competition - the Big Three networks. When the bombs hit Baghdad on January 16, 1991 (most of the other news crews have fled the city), the ingenuity and courage of Wiener, Ingrid and their crew (including CNN anchor Bernard Shaw and reporters Peter Arnett and John Holliman) pay off when they are able to use a coveted "four-wire" transmitter to relay live reports on the U.S. bombing of Baghdad not just to America, but the entire world.


Control Room (2004) (2004) a documentary about the Middle East news agency Al-Jazeera, takes a perspective that most Americans won’t share, but refusing to look at perspectives different from one’s own is a denial of larger realities.



A Force More Powerful: series on on-violent political resistance in Chile, Prague, s Africa


Vietnam’s Unseen War Journey deep behind battle lines to experience a different side of the Vietnam War - the side seen only through the lenses of North Vietnam photographers. Renowned British photojournalist Tim Page travels back to the land where he nearly lost his life to meet with North Vietnamese war photographers, revealing remarkable, never-before-seen photos and personal stories long hidden by time and tragedy.


Hotel Rowanda The deeply moving true story of a five-star-hotel manager who used his wits and words to save more than 1,200 lives during the 1994 Rwandan conflict.







Week 1

Sept 1

Intro to class and studio/seminar topics

Ideas about multiple viewpoints

Film: Regret to Inform, showing two sides to the “Vietnam” or “American” War

Lecture/ Discussion setting the ideas to see multiple sides of conflict


Readings: Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others





Week 2

Sept 8


History of Photomontage

John Heartfield, the anti-Nazi German satirist who pioneered the photomontage http://www.towson.edu/heartfield/art/5.html


Hannah Hoch: Born  1898,  Gotha,  Germany, Died  1978,  Berlin.



Skills: image scanning, traditional photomontage & digital photomontage techniques, cutting, pasting, feathering edges, layers,

Film: Photomontage Today: Peter Kennard






Week 3

Sept 15

Discuss Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others

Critiques of photomontage about war (using found images) which particularly affected you or your family.





Week 4

Sept 22

Critiques of photomontage about peace (using found images) which relates to your family in the event war did not occur.

Film: War Photographer

Readings: Sun Tzu, The Art of War, The oldest military treatise in the world.




Week 5

Sept 29


Discuss Sun Tzu, The Art of War (see below)


See film Ran


Discuss war scenarios and game plans


Create War game plan maps (pencil on vellum drawing)


Who is Sun Tzu?

Chinese general, circa 500 B.C. A collection of essays on the art of war is attributed to Sun Tzu. These are the earliest known treatises on the subject. There is a growing number of translations of this Chinese classic, usually titled Sun Tzu: The Art of War. Sometimes the wording is reversed. Knowledge of Sun Tzu reached Europe shortly before the French Revolution in the form of a summary translation by Father J. J. M. Amiot, a French Jesuit priest. In the various translations, Sun Tzu is sometimes referred to as Sun Wu, and Sun Tzi. See Sun Tzu Book List.

The most fundamental of Sun Tzu's principles for the conduct of war is that "All warfare is based on deception".

Another key Sun Tzu principle is that "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

Sun Tzu's ideas spread to the rest of Asia and to Japan. The Japanese quickly adopted Sun Tzu's teaching and perhaps added a few chapters of their own. It is no accident that Asian cultures are referred to as cultures of strategy, and Sun Tzu has played no small part in this development. The works of Sun Tzu have been widely known in the United States since the mid-1970s. Diplomat Henry Kissinger has made reference to Sun Tzu and the principles for the conduct of warfare has been the subject of serious study in U.S. military circles for many years. The art of war as applied to business, sports, diplomacy and personal lives has been popularized in American business and management texts. Sun Tzu may be the most frequently quoted Chinese personality in the world today, eclipsing Confucius, Lao Tze and Mao Dzedong. Basketball coach Pat Riley and lawyer Gerry Spence have quoted from Sun Tzu in their books. [Pat Riley and Art of War] [Gerry Spence and Art of War] [Ronnie Lott and the Art of War]

 (05 December 2004) Sun Tzu Bibliography The works of Sun Tzu dominate any bibliography on the Art of War. Lists sources translated to English, including other Chinese authors, Machiavelli and von Clausewitz in addition to Sun Tzu. There are submissions being readied for an upcoming revision to the bibliography that include translations to Scandinavian languages as well. This bibliography is catalogued on Yahoo! Fighting wars to lose. Why is the US letting this happen? (The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.)


Sun-tzu Art of War

   The oldest and unquestionably most famous work in China’s lengthy martial tradition, as well as one of the civilization’s founding books, Sun-tzu’s laconic Ping-fa preserves the first articulation of the critical concepts and tactical principles underlying China’s traditional military science. Many of the ideas, terms, and sayings entered the language itself and, in part because of a resurgence of interest in past knowledge and achievements as China searches for a unique military doctrine as well as the voracious appetite of modern media, continue to affect the strategic mindset even today.

   Although the extant text is fragmented, enigmatic, and marked by disjunctures and outright contradictions because of the limitations imposed by the written medium -- short bamboo stri
ps containing about fifteen characters each -- Sun-tzu embraced a coherent vision that emphasized the ruthless practice of efficient warfare, a necessity in an era of multi-state conflict when even victory might doom a state. Knowledge based, it stresses the application of overwhelming strategic power to exploit localized imbalances and thereby wrest swift victory, Key concepts include the necessity of acquiring intelligence and consequent need to employ spies; evaluating opponents; manipulating enemies; being formless and unknowable; creating and employing strategic power; ch’i or spirit; the unorthodox and orthodox; leadership and command; configurations of terrain; thwarting the enemy’s plans and balking his alliances; and achieving victory as economically as possible, preferably without costly combat.

   Even though the core of the book is a translation of the traditionally received text of the Art of War -- the book that influenced imperial military thinkers and commanders for two thousand years -- passages from recently recovered tomb texts are integrated or otherwise provided, and fragments otherwise preserved over the centuries included. The introduction explores the historical context of the Spring and Autumn period; examines Sun-tzu’s life; discusses the politics and measures in the state of Wu where he purportedly served as a military advisor; and describes the pivotal campaigns that unfolded during his era and immediately thereafter, including Yueh’s resurgence to exterminate Wu itself. Spring and Autumn weapons and military practices are briefly characterized and extensive notes on both textual and historical matters provided. A Chinese glossary and categorical bibliography conclude the book.


Text of The Art of War:





Week 6

Oct 6

Critique War game plan maps and War Resolution game plan maps (pencil on vellum drawings)

Photographic Techniques:

Using camera, tripod, lighting kit, the Epson 10,000 archival printer

Framing http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/SGframing.htm

Shadow http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/SGshadows.htm

Portrait http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/SGportrait.htm

Joiners http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/SGjoiners.htm


Films: 21 Days to Baghdad,

War Spin: the Media and the Iraq War



Week 7

Oct 13


Photojournalism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photojournalism


Photographers of the Civil War:







War Photographers: Some of the Greats:

From Robert Capa's 1936 photograph "Falling Soldier" to Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Marines raising the flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima there is a deep fascination with capturing the emotional, physical and psychological essence of war.


Robert Capa:

Bio and most famous photographs http://www.pbs.org/weta/reportingamericaatwar/reporters/capa/

Falling soldier controversy http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/capa_r.html


Joe Rosenthal:




Gilles Peress:




James Nachtwey



American Photojournalist http://www.americanphotojournalist.com/story.php?storyid=66


War Stories



War Pornographers


Read: Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/debord/society.htm


Film: Fälschung, Die (Circle of Deceit) Volker Schlöndorff



Week 8

Oct 20

Visiting Photojournalist


Symbol, Allegory, Representation


Artists’ Responses to War and conflict


Assignment: start your research for your final project




Week 9

Oct 27

Critique photo essays on conflict in your environment


Critique photo essay about resolution in your environment

War Memorials : Who are we remembering? Why are they forgotten? What did they do? Can we learn from their experiences?







Film Live from Baghdad


Assignment: start your research for your final project




Week 10

Nov 3




Game Simulation


Techniques: Maya, vrml, open GL

Contemporary Culture and War: simulation, games and war

It's no videogame: news commentary and the second gulf war

Consalvo Mia
November 2003 Level Up Conference Proceedings
Full text | INFO

This study analyzes U.S. news media coverage of the second Gulf War, to determine how individuals used the term ‘videogame’ in reference to the war. By studying how the news media itself sought to praise or criticize coverage of the war as being un/like videogames, we can see how videogames continue to be constructed in popular media in troublesome ways. Analysis, for example, shows that use of the term “videogame” points to coverage that (1) focuses on sophisticated technologies, (2) is devoid of human suffering, and/or (3) seems somehow fake or non-serious. Use of the term is largely pejorative and dismissive, reflecting (and reinforcing) popular views of videogames as lacking context and seriousness. Finally, the study examines the military’s own history of game-related activities, and how that context creates striking paradoxes in such usages.

Keywords: War coverage, Iraq, Gulf War II, videogame, technology, war


Satellite Imaging, Bigger Brother and War Technology


Film: Control Room



Week 11

Nov 10

Critiques of simulations with multiple points of view


Film: Vietnam’s Unseen War



Week 12

Nov 17

Studio work and research for your final project

Film: Hotel Rowanda



Week 13

Nov 24  Off for Thanksgiving




Week 14

Dec 1

Final Project Pre Reviews Due



Week 15

Dec 8

Final Projects Due







Requirements and Suggestions


How to take the course (in a nutshell):

Show up. Attendance is mandatory every week. Do the work and the assignments. Do the readings and come prepared to ask questions. Turn work in on time. Contribute to the discussions. Check the course website for the latest information about assignments and activities.



Students must demonstrate satisfactory achievement of course projects and by contributing to class discussions and critiques.


• 15% Short studies (7. 5% each x 2)

• 75% Final Project with Final Game Design Document

• 10% Participation in class

Letter grade equivalents for the course are as follows:

90 - 100 A

80 - 89.99 B

70 - 79.99 C

60 - 69.99 D

0   - 59.99 F


Class Attendance Policy

As an enrolled student, you have made a commitment to this class and your attendance is a significant part of that commitment. Attendance will be taken at every class. An absence is considered excused if the student has informed the course instructor by phone, email or in person before the beginning of the class and the excuse is considered reasonable by the instructor. All students are required to be on time and in attendance for each and every class. Students arriving to class more than 10 minutes late may be counted as absent.  Two (2) unexcused absences will result in a reduction of one entire letter grade.  Four or more absences will result in a zero for class participation.


Adherence to deadlines is expected. It is the individual student's responsibility to keep track of deadlines and to present the work to the class and instructor on the specified dates. 15% per day will be subtracted from late assignments.


If you are concerned about your creative trajectory or your grade at any point during the semester, please do not hesitate to contact your Instructor and schedule an appointment during office hours.


Statement On Academic Integrity

Class Specific

Collaboration and discussion about class projects is actively encouraged, and is in no way considered cheating. This is a studio course, and personal ownership of information is not deemed to be appropriate. Original images/ designs are required except where indicated otherwise. Projects are expected to reflect personal endeavor, but may also be collaborative in nature when the nature of the collaboration is clearly indicated.


Academic Honesty

Student relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. Students must be able to trust that their teachers have made responsible decisions about the structure and content of the course and that they are conscientiously making their best effort to help students learn. Teachers must be able to trust that students do their work conscientiously and honestly making their best effort to learn. Acts that violate this mutual respect and trust undermine the educational process. They counteract our very reason for being at Rensselaer and will not be tolerated. Any student who engages in any form of academic dishonesty will receive an F in this course and will be reported to the Dean of Students for further disciplinary action. The Rensselaer Handbook defines various forms of Academic Dishonesty and procedures for responding to them. All of these forms are violations of trust between students and teachers. Please familiarize yourself with this portion of the handbook.


Required Materials

• An active RCS account.

• Approximately 5 CDs

• Other materials on a project basis

• You may be making a number of digital prints/manifestations of your work on and off campus. The costs of digital printing vary, but be prepared to incur at least $25 in fabrication/material costs.


Electronic Communication

Email: All students are expected to have an active electronic mail account, and should check mail at least four times a week for class information. Some essential class information is communicated by email only.  


Work Habits

Always back-up your work frequently; that is, every time you make something you think is worth keeping.  Systems crash when least expected and you could lose all your work.   It is a good idea to make three backups (on different media), as storage media are sometimes unstable. Always save onto your own media or into your account as files left on hard drives will be removed.


Also, please keep in mind the highly addictive aspects of working with computers. Many people lose track of time and later wonder why they have severe back, neck and eye problems.  It is a good idea to take a rest every 15 to 20 minutes.  Look up or beyond your computer or, better still, at a long distance to relax your eyes.  Take a walk or stretch.  Fatigue can lead to frustration. Stay in touch with your body's needs.


Try not to harm or deface any equipment in any way or lose files and folders belonging to our class or other classes. 


Please report studio lab problems to Arts Engine staff.

Please follow the guidelines for working in each studio very carefully, as you will be held personally responsible for problems you incur. At all times please keep the lab clean after each use.