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Identify and Explain the Key Themes in the poem 'War Photographer'

In this worksheet, students will identify the key themes in the poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy and understand their significance.

'Identify and Explain the Key Themes in the poem 'War Photographer'' worksheet

Key stage:  KS 4

GCSE Subjects:   English Literature

GCSE Boards:   AQA, Pearson Edexcel

Curriculum topic:   Poetry, Poetry Anthology Collections

Curriculum subtopic:   Power and Conflict: 'War Photographer', Conflict: 'War Photographer'

Difficulty level:  

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

For this activity, you will need to turn to the poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy, which can be found in your anthology.

 

The poem is written about a war photographer who has returned home and is developing his photos. The process of developing old-style film photos is rather unusual for many to understand today. Old style film is very sensitive to light, so it must be done in a dark room lit with a red light. War photographers do a very dangerous job, many are killed and injured as they must get in harm's way to get the photos they require.

camera

The poem focuses on two main themes:

 

The horror of war.

Our lack of care for the people suffering in these wars.

 

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about the meaning of these themes.

In order to identify the themes in the poem 'War Photographer', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Match the questions to the correct answers below:

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come from?
The narrator goes to the dark room to process the ...
What does the narrator do as soon as he arrives ho...
He feels that they do not realise how bad the conf...
How does the narrator feel about the conflict he h...
The narrator is shocked and saddened by the suffer...
How does the narrator feel about the people back i...
The narrator has been in a country of conflict tak...

modern day soldiers

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'War Photographer', which summary do you think best explains the poem?

 

The photographer is a priest who has visited war zones and taken photographs of the atrocities. He hopes that the horror he has recorded will make people want to take action to stop it, but when he returns to England it only makes people pause for a moment

A photographer is in his dark room developing pictures he has taken from a war zone. As a photgraph develops he remembers a man who had died and how upset his wife was. He compares this to the safe and comfortable lives of the people in "rural England"

A photographer is developing photos in his dark room of images of conflict. He feels annoyed that only some of the images will be seen and it causes him distress to have to choose which ones are important, when he sees them all as being this

The main theme running throughout the poem is the horror of war, which is why this poem is a great fit for the Power and Conflict cluster!

 

 

soldier with gun

 

 

The words and phrases below are all taken from the poem 'War Photographer'. Can you decide which words/phrases relate to the horror of war, and which do not?

 Words associated with the horror of warwords NOT associated with the horror of war
Suffering
Darkroom
Softly
Pain
Explode
Feet
Foreign
Nightmare
Cries
Blood
Aeroplane

Let's have a deeper look at the theme of the horror of war. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

small boy running

 

Underline two words from the quotation which you think creates a sense of the horror of war.

\"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat\"

Another theme within 'War Photographeris the indifference to suffering that the poet believes people are beginning to feel, while they enjoy a luxurious and safe life in England.

 

Indifference = lack of interest, concern or sympathy

 

The following quotation is taken from the poem 'War Photographer'. Can you underline the words which create a sense of the indifference to suffering that the poet creates?

\"The reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers\"

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of indifference to suffering. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement"

 

 

aeroplanes at war

 

 

How does this quotation support the theme of indifference to suffering?

 

The editor only thinks the images are important enough to be printed in black and white

The editor of the newspaper does not have an issue with throwing away images of the people who have suffered

The photographer wants the editor to include all six of his photographs

Another theme in 'War Photographer' is death. The narrator gives an account of how death occurs in conflict, and how the war photographer has traumatic memories about the death he has witnessed.

 

 

illustrated heart on a tree

 

 

The quotations below are all from the poem 'War Photographer'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of death.

 

"A half-formed ghost"

"Which his editor will pick out five or six"

"In his darkroom he is finally alone"

"Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands"

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of death. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"How he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust"

 

How does this quotation support the theme of death?

 

The war photographer did not want to take a picture of the dead man because he could see that the wife was too upset

The war photographer and the wife agree that a picture must be taken of the dead man so that people back in England can see what is happening in foreign countries

The war photographer finds the scene too upsetting to take pictures of

Another theme of 'War Photographer' is conflict. One of the ways conflict is described in the poem is the description of violence from countries at war.

 

The quotations below are all from the poem 'War Photographer'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of conflict.

 

"In his darkroom he is finally alone"

"The only light is red and softly glows"

"How the blood stained into foreign dust"

"Solutions slop in trays beneath his hands"

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of conflict. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"Fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

young boy running

 

 

How does this quotation support the theme of conflict?

 

The poet saw how happy the children were in the war zones, even though they didn't have many things to play with

The poet felt sorry for the children in the war zone who did not get the chance to run in fields

The poet creates the impression that children in England are very lucky to be able to run in fields where there is no danger to their lives, unlike the children of war zones

  • Question 1

In order to identify the themes in the poem 'War Photographer', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Match the questions to the correct answers below:

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come ...
The narrator has been in a countr...
What does the narrator do as soon...
The narrator goes to the dark roo...
How does the narrator feel about ...
The narrator is shocked and sadde...
How does the narrator feel about ...
He feels that they do not realise...
EDDIE SAYS
Carol Ann Duffy has friends who are war photographers and she has always been fascinated by a job that requires people to record terrible events, without being able to actually help anyone. The poem describes the difficulties of the war photographer as he struggles to deal with moving between a country in conflict and a peaceful country, where people often take things for granted. The poem also asks us, as readers, to think about our own reaction to the images of conflict which we see in the media.
  • Question 2

modern day soldiers

 

 

Now that you have read the poem 'War Photographer', which summary do you think best explains the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
A photographer is in his dark room developing pictures he has taken from a war zone. As a photgraph develops he remembers a man who had died and how upset his wife was. He compares this to the safe and comfortable lives of the people in "rural England"
EDDIE SAYS
The poem is about the difficulties a war photographer faces when his job requires him to record horrific events, without being able to help. Before digital photography, photographs were taken on film. They then had to be processed with chemicals in a dark room. Images developed slowly and had to be hung up to dry!
  • Question 3

The main theme running throughout the poem is the horror of war, which is why this poem is a great fit for the Power and Conflict cluster!

 

 

soldier with gun

 

 

The words and phrases below are all taken from the poem 'War Photographer'. Can you decide which words/phrases relate to the horror of war, and which do not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Words associated with the horror of warwords NOT associated with the horror of war
Suffering
Darkroom
Softly
Pain
Explode
Feet
Foreign
Nightmare
Cries
Blood
Aeroplane
EDDIE SAYS
The poet uses language to describe the horror of war and the terrible personal tragedies behind the conflicts. Perhaps almost in an attempt to counter the graphic imagery that we have become so used to seeing, her depictions are subtle and understated and she often leaves the reader to compose their own mental images.
  • Question 4

Let's have a deeper look at the theme of the horror of war. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

small boy running

 

Underline two words from the quotation which you think creates a sense of the horror of war.

CORRECT ANSWER
"To fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation really creates a sense of the horror of war, as it is describing how something terrible can happen to innocent children who simply want to run through fields. The word "explodes" is a verb used to describe the action of a bomb going off and the word "nightmare" is used to describe how bad life is for people who have to worry about their children in this way.
  • Question 5

Another theme within 'War Photographeris the indifference to suffering that the poet believes people are beginning to feel, while they enjoy a luxurious and safe life in England.

 

Indifference = lack of interest, concern or sympathy

 

The following quotation is taken from the poem 'War Photographer'. Can you underline the words which create a sense of the indifference to suffering that the poet creates?

CORRECT ANSWER
"The reader’s eyeballs prick
with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers"
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation shows the photographer's frustration that the readers of the newspaper do not care as much as he does about the people suffering in conflict. He uses the words "bath" and "pre-lunch beers" to create the impression that, whilst the readers may be upset for a moment, they will soon be back to enjoying the luxuries they have and the conflict will soon be forgotten.
  • Question 6

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of indifference to suffering. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement"

 

 

aeroplanes at war

 

 

How does this quotation support the theme of indifference to suffering?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The editor of the newspaper does not have an issue with throwing away images of the people who have suffered
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "A hundred agonies in black and white from which his editor will pick out five or six for Sunday's supplement" shows the anger that the photographer feels towards his editor (his boss, who's in charge of the newspaper). Whereas the photographer views every photograph he has as somebody important, the editor only wants the best photos and does not feel guilty that the images of people who have died will be thrown away.
  • Question 7

Another theme in 'War Photographer' is death. The narrator gives an account of how death occurs in conflict, and how the war photographer has traumatic memories about the death he has witnessed.

 

 

illustrated heart on a tree

 

 

The quotations below are all from the poem 'War Photographer'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of death.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"A half-formed ghost"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "A half-formed ghost" is a metaphor which is used to describe an image that is slowly developing. The narrator describes the image as a "ghost" because of the cloudy way in which the image appears, but also because of the people in the images who have died.
  • Question 8

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of death. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"How he sought approval
without words to do what someone must
and how the blood stained into foreign dust"

 

How does this quotation support the theme of death?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The war photographer and the wife agree that a picture must be taken of the dead man so that people back in England can see what is happening in foreign countries
EDDIE SAYS
In this quotation, the narrator creates shocking and emotive imagery of the grief of a wife who has just seen her husband killed. Although the war photographer is aware that this is a very emotional and private time, he also knows that it is these kinds of pictures that will make people back in England take notice of what is happening in the war zones. Luckily, the wife also understands this and she silently allows him to take the picture.
  • Question 9

Another theme of 'War Photographer' is conflict. One of the ways conflict is described in the poem is the description of violence from countries at war.

 

The quotations below are all from the poem 'War Photographer'. Choose one which you think supports the theme of conflict.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"How the blood stained into foreign dust"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "how the blood stained into foreign dust" supports the theme of conflict, because it is a reference to the fighting and violence that is happening in foreign countries. The poet is making the point that, although this conflict is in a "foreign" place, the fact that innocent people are dying should make it an issue for people who are in safe countries such as England.
  • Question 10

Let's take a deeper look at the theme of conflict. Read the following quotation from 'War Photographer':

 

"Fields which don’t explode beneath the feet
of running children in a nightmare heat"

 

young boy running

 

 

How does this quotation support the theme of conflict?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The poet creates the impression that children in England are very lucky to be able to run in fields where there is no danger to their lives, unlike the children of war zones
EDDIE SAYS
This quotation creates the theme of conflict in two ways. The first is in the same way as the previous quotation, as it is a description of the violence and damage that conflict can cause. The second way is more subtle; the poet also feels at conflict with his own country, as he doesn't feel that people in England appreciate how safe they are or how their children are able to play outside without being in danger.
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