Exploring the affective impact of war photographs on students’ moral and intellectual development

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Abstract

This paper proposes a new way to explore the affective impact of war photographs on students’ moral and intellectual development. I use two unique cases of students to illustrate the strong personal involvement in students’ selection and interpretation of war photographs. One student seems to suggest a viewer’s position as moral rescuer and the other a viewer’s position as suffering victim. The paper is based on the findings from a piece of action research conducted among students on a general education course in the USA. The research was conceived as a response to Susan Sontag’s (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others and James Nachtwey’s war photography from an art education perspective. A multicultural art education approach with social reconstruction as the goal was adopted for the research. The findings confirm the hypothesis that war photographs have a direct influence on the judgments formulated by students about the world. War photography engages students emotionally and activates their affective memories, which, in turn, help to construct their “moral constitutions” regarding war and humanitarian issues. Art education can play a unique role in creating “reverential conditions” in which students can study war photography and think more deeply not only about the distant suffering but also about their own moral stances. Copyright © 2015 the Education University of Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
JournalAsia-Pacific Journal for Arts Education
Volume14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Citation

Yim, K-P. (2015). Exploring the affective impact of war photographs on students’ moral and intellectual development. Asia-Pacific Journal for Arts Education, 14(5), 1-30.

Keywords

  • James Nachtwey
  • Susan Sontag
  • War photography
  • Affective memory
  • Multicultural art education

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