Cold War Photography

What it is: During the War, society wanted to know what was going on on the battlefield, and stories weren’t enough. Cold War photographers provided the visual story of what the soldiers were going through on and off the battlefield. After all, picture are worth a thousand words.

The Cold War (1947-1953), was between the Soviets and the United States. In fear of resulting in World War III, they used words and allies to fight their battles. To this day, in history we continue to learn about this war, and one way to learn about the war is visually, which could not be possible without photography and the photographers of the Cold War. While providing us with footage of the war, photographers often put their lives at risk while trying to take pictures on the battlefield. ColdWar.jpg
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Photo captured of Tanks ready for combat

Conflicts: Besides the fact that photographers lives were at risk, some of the photographers would stage their pictures, misleading the press and society. For example, Men and soldiers would be told where to go and how to pose, corpses would maneuvered and handled and put in certain positions to alter the originality of the photo. Even though the photographs were supposed to be a harsh taste of reality, some of them weren’t as real as people assumed and viewed.

Although photographers were often appreciated for there works, there were citizens who believed corpses should be left to rest in peace, and soldiers were meant to do what they were told, and not have the rest of the world see the bad deeds they have to do, or have done


The Technology: Unlike today, the photojournalists of the cold war, or volunteer photographers didn’t have the same technology that photographers have today. There were certain cameras and different types of pictures. One specific type of picture was a wet plate picture, which several war journalists used to develop their pictures into the paper. For wet plate, silver halides suspended in gelatin would assist in devolving the photos. The camera that most of the photographers used was the Smena 8m. The camera was low in quality, consisting of 35mm film and the disability of the camera not being able to focus on a subject. However, the glass in the lenses allowed the pictures taken come out sharp and appropriately saturated. Even though it was plastic, the photographers made great use of the materials they had.


The Most Famous Photographers:
Red Grandy- One of the most famous photographers from the Cold War was Red Grandy, who was 21 years old during the War, and he held a job as a "still photographer" for the military newspaper, Stars and Stripes. His talent and skill lead one of his best works (shown below) to be titled "news photo of the year". This opportunity to photograph General Eisenhower's reaction to such big news promoted his photography to companies, and won over the country.

Tim Page:
Tim Page was a notorious for his photos from experiences from the war. His career blossomed when he borrowed a camera and took a picture a phenomenal picture, where he was then recruited by United Press International to capture the hardships of war.


Cold War Photography is visual representations of the war. Photographers used camera to express the difficulties of being and serving in the war, and they would take memorable photos that wouldn’t leave a positive impact on society. The technology in the 1940’s was not advanced, so most of the impacting pictures were still photos, due to the fact that the cameras used couldn’t take action photos. However, the still pictures were more meaningful to viewers and soldiers. The photographs would be sent to home to the family of the soldiers, while more graphic pictures were sent to the latest military newspaper.

In everyday life, citizens wondered what they couldn't see for themselves. On the news they would hear stories of what happened on the battlefield, who died, and how they died. However for a long time, lack of technology disabled society from being revealed to the true, grim realities of war. During the Cold War, the people of the United States knew that the Soviet Union kept talking about their nuclear weapons and heard about the nuclear weapons but society wanted proof. They wanted a visual picture showing these supposed “bombs” and the supposed “armies” and equipment. Different photojournalist and photographers provided this lust for reality.
The Impact Photography had on the cold war was the emotional and physical affect i had on people looking at the photographs on the news or in the newspaper or on propaganda. Also, it ended the stereotypes of “romantic soldiers” and allowed reality to be passed to people other than eyewitnesses of the war. After the death of soldiers, the photographs became known as detailed records of the lives the honorable once lived. To viewers, they felt that even if the soldier in the photograph had passed, the memoir and impact of the photo would carry on in pride.

Work Cited:

"Red Grandy, Cold War Photgrapher." North Cou. UpNorth Gallery: Web. 3 May 2011. <>.

"Photography and War." PBS. Pbs, n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <>.

"Wikia." Camerapedia. Wikia, n.d. Web. 3 May 2011. <>.