The poem opens in the intimate, tranquil setting of the photographer's darkroom. He is compared to a priest and there is a definite sense of ritual in the way he develops his film. He sets out the film:
spools of suffering in
ordered rows, perhaps in an attempt to restore order to the chaotic images contained within them.
He handles them with the same respect with which a priest would prepare for communion and there is a definite spirituality to this process.
This religious imagery is effective in not only conveying the dedication the photographer feels towards his occupation but also because, like a priest, he too is often exposed to death and suffering.
The red light of the darkroom has connotations of the light that burns continuously in Catholic churches to symbolise the presence of Christ and also of blood– a sight that the photographer must be all too familiar with.
Aside from the function of the light to help process the films and protect the images he has taken, there is more than a suggestion that the darkroom is a place of sanctuary for the photographer, just as a religious or spiritual person may look for the same kind of solace in a church had they been confronted with the same horrors that the photographer must endure.
However, instead of preparing for mass, the photographer is developing images of war– evidence of inhuman behaviour which only serves to contradict the fundamental teachings of the Church.
The final line of the stanza ends in a list of the places where he has recorded images of conflict. Duffy's deliberate use of full stops here helps to “fix” the images – the final part of the printing process - into the mind of the reader. The stanza ends with the quotation
all flesh is grass which comes from the Old Testament and reinforces the religious imagery as well as emphasising the fragility of life.