How do war stories work? And what do they do to us?

Join members of the Visualising War research group as we explore how war and battle get presented in art, text, film and music. With the help of expert guests, we unpick war stories from all sorts of different periods and places. And we ask how they the tales we tell and the pictures we paint of war influence us as individuals and shape the societies we live in.

Our interviewees include war reporters, artists, video-game designers, museum curators and theatre, film and documentary makers. We also talk to peace campaigners, NGOs and clinical psychologists, to find out how storytelling impacts their work with victims of conflict all around the world. And we interview serving soldiers, veterans, defence trainers and strategists, to find out what narratives of war flourish in their respective worlds and what influence they have.

In addition, we have a range of academics amongst our guests: experts in ancient war poetry, medieval religion, the ‘just war’ tradition, trends in memorialisation, militarism in popular culture, the history of grand strategy-making, human rights, international politics, the psychology of collective action, and processes of identify formation – among many other topics!

If you have ever wanted to think more about how war stories work and what they do to us, tune in here! And don’t forget to subscribe to the show so that you don’t miss an episode. Anyone requiring auto captions can access the podcast via YouTube. You can find a schedule of upcoming episodes here.

We are grateful to the University of St Andrews and the Institute of Classical Studies for their generous financial support of this podcast series.

‘Sorry for the War’: photographer Peter van Agtmael's take on the US at war Visualising War

The Visualising War podcast recently interviewed award-winning photographer Peter van Agtmael. Over a career spanning 20 years, Peter has focused on representing different manifestations of the US at war. His first book, ‘Disco Night Sept. 11’, brought together images of the USA at war in the post-9/11 era, from 2006-2013. His second, ‘Buzzing at the Sill’, focused on the US in the shadow of recent wars; it does not capture images of armed conflict, but examines aspects of American society that have been shaped by and helped to shape the wars that America has fought. His third book, ‘Sorry for the War’ explores the vast dissonance between how the United States has visualised itself at war and how people on the ground (soldiers and civilians) have experienced those wars, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Peter has won multiple prizes for these books, as well as being highly sought after by media organisations such as the New York Times and the New Yorker. For the last ten years he has also been capturing images of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine.In the podcast, Peter talks about what motivated him to go to war as a photographer in the first place, and how his understanding of war and his approach to conflict photography have evolved over time. Aware that a single photograph can only capture one person’s perspective and a tiny slice of time, Peter underlines the importance of a multiplicity of images which together can build a sense of context, change over time and diversity of experience. He tries to document wars as holistically as possible, while still going deep and getting personal. He is particularly interested in unpicking the gap between our habits of imagining, viewing and understanding conflict and how it impacts people for real. There is a strong sense in his books that he is myth-busting, as he invites us to look critically at our own habits of seeing and really stretches our understanding of war’s dynamics, impacts and aftermath.  Among other things, Peter talks about the aesthetics of conflict photography, the authenticity and 'trustworthiness' of the images he tries to take, and his role as a narrator – both when taking individual photographs and when curating them into photographic collections and books. We discuss the opportunities that long-form books can offer compared with short-form articles, in documenting both multiplicity and complexity. And we consider what written text can add to images, in contextualising and sometimes even dispelling a mirage. Along the way we reflect on the vital role that photography and a reflective press can play in deconstructing misconceptions and idealisations of war that political rhetoric and other social pressures so often rely on. We hope you enjoy the episode! This blog captures some of the images that Peter talks about; and listeners can see more on Peter's website and instagram page. For a version of our podcast with close captions, please use this link. For more information about individuals and their projects, please visit the University of St Andrews Visualising War website. Music composed by Jonathan YoungSound mixing by Zofia Guertin
  1. ‘Sorry for the War’: photographer Peter van Agtmael's take on the US at war
  2. War and Peace Reporting in Afghanistan
  3. The Poetics of Rome’s Punic Wars
  4. Ancient Greek warfare and its influence on modern habits of visualising war
  5. Visualising Future Conflict through Storytelling with Matthew Brown, Emily Spiers and Will Slocombe
  6. How War Disrupts the Experience of Time with Julian Wright
  7. Re-presenting well-known conflicts at the Imperial War Museums: World War II and the Holocaust
  8. Strategy-making and/as Storytelling with Phillips O’Brien
  9. Re-presenting well-known conflicts at the Imperial War Museums: World War I
  10. Gallipoli to the Somme: musical responses to WW1 with Kate Kennedy and Anthony Ritchie

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