A Grid of Pixels

Above: A member of the British Royal Regiment of Artillery on an advance force operations surveillance-and-target-acquisition patrol. Credit: Ministry of Defence.

Special Forces War Photography

Modern (present day) state military operations are often conducted covertly by small special forces units. The unit takes on individual missions, each with a limited specific objective. The special ops unit is hyper-mobile, their infiltration into an enemy territory is often classified as Top Secret. The modern special ops unit has much in common with the guerrilla unit as defined by Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and Mao Zedong: ten-to-twelve men; heavily armed; missions typically take place undercover of night; ghost-like and near untraceable; missions are ongoing.

Given this impression of contemporary warfare, is there a role for the war photographer? The answer has to be no. The war photographer, to a special forces unit, would be too great a liability in the field. He or she would add a definite extra risk to the success of the mission. Special forces soldiers are selected for their being highly intelligent and physically fit--to the level of an elite athlete. Once selected they undergo years of battle situation and weapons training. Hence it is unlikely that any semi-fit and moderately intelligent photographer would have the required knowledge or mental/physical strength necessary to participate in active service missions.

In the age of the rise to prominence of the special forces unit, the classic war photographer (a brave tag-along) has no place. It's not really for reasons of the military/state wanting to hide anything from the war photographer, it's just operational reasons. In the meantime, in order to gain some idea of what modern warfare is like we have the memoirs of retired special ops soldiers and occasionally helmet-mounted GoPro video footage of a mission emerges.

(8 February 2019)