Lens: Beyond the Myth of the War Photographer

The myth of the war photographer is hard to dispel. Infused with machismo, the Hollywood archetype is the hard-living, scarf-wearing loner dashing from one war zone to the next, with romantic partners as expendable as bullets. But clichés ignore the doubts, fears and moral quandaries as well as the loneliness and pain that shadow those who document the depths of human depravity. Such emotional whiplash creates that other cliché — of the tragic, fallen heroes (or heroines) broken by the horrors they’ve witnessed.

The reality of the war photographer is, of course, far more nuanced.

The psychiatrist Anthony Feinstein explores this complexity in his book, “Shooting War” (Glitterati Editions). Starting with a single, striking image from each photographer, Dr. Feinstein profiles 18 conflict photographers, including Don McCullin, Tim Hetherington and Corinne Dufka, and examines their motivations, traumas, and, most important, their resilience.

“Unlike soldiers, they are not schooled in violence,” he writes. “And yet their longevity on the front lines is unequaled. Time and again they return to the fray, knowing all too well the toll that in the end is likely to be exacted.”

ImageA couple walking amid the wreckage in Haiti from the 2010 earthquake.CreditCarol Guzy/courtesy of Glitterati Editions

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Ethnic Albanian Kosovar girls celebrate their freedom on the road from Mitrovica to Pristina in front of a burning house that belonged to a Serb family.CreditAlexandra Boulat/courtesy of Glitterati Editions

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United States Marines sleeping in their fighting holes inside a compound where they stayed for

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