Stanza two

American soldiers in a trench with some Vietnamese children
American soldiers in a trench with some Vietnamese children

This stanza breaks the reverie and calm of the dark room with the line He has a job to do. The phrase solutions slop in trays has a dual meaning, referring both directly to the onomatopoeic sound of the chemicals he is using to develop but also the hope that in some way these photographs may help to contribute to the resolution of the conflicts they depict.

Significantly, the photographer’s hands are shaking though they did not tremble when taking the photo.

The implication is that in order to function and do his job properly in the field, the photographer must be able to distance himself from the subjects of his photographs.

However, he is able to let down his guard in the privacy of the darkroom as he finally allows himself to react to the terrible suffering he was forced to witness and record.

He considers the contrast between Rural England and the war zones that he visits, noting how our ordinary problems can be dispelled by the simplicity of clement weather.

The injustice of the situation is exemplified when he notes how our children don’t have to be fearful of landmines when they are at play.

One of the most iconic images of war photography is deliberately evoked in the final line of stanza two: of running children in a nightmare heat.

This photograph, of children fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam directly helped to end this conflict and emphasises just how indifferent we have become today when similar images fail to resonate with us.