The smart way to improve grades

Comprehensive & curriculum aligned

Affordable pricing from £10/month

Describe and Explain the Key Contextual Features of the Poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy

In this worksheet, students will describe the context of the poem 'War Photographer' and explain its significance.

'Describe and Explain the Key Contextual Features of the Poem 'War Photographer' by Carol Ann Duffy' 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.

 

soldiers

 

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. The poem also looks at the contrast between the war zones and safety of being back home, away from war with people around you not truly understanding the truth, after all a single photo cannot show everything.
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 are after.

 

In the following questions, you will be asked about the context of the poem.

war planes

 

 

In order to explore the context of 'War Photographer', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem 'War Photographer' and match the questions to the answers below.

Column A

Column B

Where has the narrator just come from?
The narrator has been in a country of conflict tak...
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 goes to the dark room to process the ...
How does the narrator feel about the people back i...
The narrator is shocked and saddened by the suffer...

soldiers

 

Now that you have read the poem 'War Photographer', choose one of these summaries which 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 photograph 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 poem 'War Photographer' contains some difficult language, which needs to be understood in order to understand the context of the poem.

 

 

aeroplane

 

 

The words below are all taken from the poem 'War Photographer'. Match them to their definition.

Column A

Column B

"Spools"
A thing added to something else in order to comple...
"Intone"
Say or recite with little rise and fall of the pit...
"Slop"
Spill or flow over the edge of a container, typica...
"Rural"
Not feeling or showing emotion
"Supplement"
Characteristic of the countryside, rather than the...
"Impassively"
A reel or cylindrical device on which photography ...

Carol Ann Duffy was born in Scotland and was made Britain's first female Poet Laureate in 2009.

 

She was good friends with two respected photojournalists, who appear to influence 'War Photographer'.

 

 

writing

 
 
What impact do these facts have on the poem? Choose two explanations from the list below.
Duffy is a well respected poet who is praised for her description of the realities of conflict

People only started to read Duffy's poems once she was Poet Laureate

Duffy was able to gain first hand information of what it is like to be a war photographer

Duffy's friends would have been annoyed that she had written about them

Carol Ann Duffy has said that,

 

"In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so that it can't have a fictional beginning".

 

 

story book

 

What does this quotation tell us about the context of 'War Photographer'?

 

Duffy wanted her poems to read like a story

Duffy added fiction to her poems so that they were enjoyable to read

Duffy made sure that her poem was based on facts and the truth of war so that people would take notice of her message

Carol Ann Duffy is well known for poems that give a voice to people who are powerless, she encourages people to put themselves in the shoes of people who they might not usually think about and empathise with.

 

In the second stanza of 'War Photographer', the narrator contrasts the lives of children in war zones, with children in England. She asks the reader to imagine what life is like for these children.

 

The following extract explains what life is like for children in a war zone, using very violent language:

 

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

 

 

young boy running

 

 

Which words do you think create the violent imagery in this quotation, and which don't?

 Words which create violent imageryWords which don't create violent imagery
"Explode"
"Beneath"
"Children"
"Running"
"Nightmare"
"Heat"
"Fields"

Carol Anne Duffy's poetry often deals with the grittier and more disturbing parts of life. She uses dark humour to convey her social and political subject matter.

 

old photograph

 

The quotations below are all from the poem 'War Photographer'. Which do you think is a good example of the dark humour that the poet uses?

 

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

"A hundred agonies in black and white"

"He earns his living and they do not care"

"He remembers the cries of this man’s wife"

The poet creates a contrast between the war zones and the safety of being back home. The photographer wants people to know the truth, but he understands that a photo cannot explain the truth of what he saw.

 

In the third stanza of 'War Photographer', the narrator explains how he "remembers the cries of this man's wife". 

 

This quotation tells the reader that although they can see the suffering, they will not understand the actual agony as they did not hear what he did.

 

Which words do you think explain the narrator's emotions here, and which do not?

 Words which explain his emotionsWords which do not explain his emotions
Helpless
Tired
Distressed
Regretful
Shocked
Guilty
Annoyed
Happy

It could be said that the poet is similar to a 'War Photographer' as she is using language to describe what happened, as they are using photographs.

 

Throughout the poem, Duffy adds the context of our everyday lives and asks us to consider how lucky we are to have such luxuries.

 

bath

 

The quotations below are all taken from the poem 'War Photographer.' Choose one quotation which you think explains the point above.

 

"A stranger’s features faintly start to twist"

"A hundred agonies in black and white"

"Home again to ordinary pain"

"Between the bath and pre-lunch beers"

The poet includes the context of the reader's own lives as she urges them to consider how they have been desensitized towards the conflict.

 

Desensitized = having been made less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering by overexposure to such images.

 

Read the last line of the poem and choose an answer from each column for the following questions.

 

"From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care"

 

aeroplane

 

 

Who is the poet referring to here?

 

What is the photographer's view of his home country?

"A stranger’s features faintly start to twist"

"A hundred agonies in black and white"

"Home again to ordinary pain"

"Between the bath and pre-lunch beers"

  • Question 1

war planes

 

 

In order to explore the context of 'War Photographer', we need to understand the meaning of the poem. Read the poem 'War Photographer' and match the questions to the 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 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

soldiers

 

Now that you have read the poem 'War Photographer', choose one of these summaries which 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 photograph 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 poem 'War Photographer' contains some difficult language, which needs to be understood in order to understand the context of the poem.

 

 

aeroplane

 

 

The words below are all taken from the poem 'War Photographer'. Match them to their definition.

CORRECT ANSWER

Column A

Column B

"Spools"
A reel or cylindrical device on w...
"Intone"
Say or recite with little rise an...
"Slop"
Spill or flow over the edge of a ...
"Rural"
Characteristic of the countryside...
"Supplement"
A thing added to something else i...
"Impassively"
Not feeling or showing emotion
EDDIE SAYS
All of the words above are important, as they create an understanding of how the photographer feels. Words such as "intone" and "impassively" create a contrast between the photographer's strong feelings towards the conflict, and the readers lack of feeling.
  • Question 4

Carol Ann Duffy was born in Scotland and was made Britain's first female Poet Laureate in 2009.

 

She was good friends with two respected photojournalists, who appear to influence 'War Photographer'.

 

 

writing

 
 
What impact do these facts have on the poem? Choose two explanations from the list below.
CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy is a well respected poet who is praised for her description of the realities of conflict
Duffy was able to gain first hand information of what it is like to be a war photographer
EDDIE SAYS
A Poet Laureate is a poet officially appointed by a government, typically expected to compose poems for special events and occasions. A huge achievement! Duffy's poetry was already read and enjoyed by many because of the way it described real events, such as conflict. The fact that she has friends who are war photographers, and spoke to them whilst writing, tells us that the description and emotion in the poem is an accurate indication of how war photographers truly feel.
  • Question 5

Carol Ann Duffy has said that,

 

"In each poem, I'm trying to reveal a truth, so that it can't have a fictional beginning".

 

 

story book

 

What does this quotation tell us about the context of 'War Photographer'?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Duffy made sure that her poem was based on facts and the truth of war so that people would take notice of her message
EDDIE SAYS
In the poem 'War Photographer', Duffy has an important message for the reader - that we must be more aware of the suffering that is happening in other countries. In order for this message to be taken seriously, Duffy made sure that she had based her description of what happened in the poem on events and memories from her friends, who are real-life war photographers.
  • Question 6

Carol Ann Duffy is well known for poems that give a voice to people who are powerless, she encourages people to put themselves in the shoes of people who they might not usually think about and empathise with.

 

In the second stanza of 'War Photographer', the narrator contrasts the lives of children in war zones, with children in England. She asks the reader to imagine what life is like for these children.

 

The following extract explains what life is like for children in a war zone, using very violent language:

 

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

 

 

young boy running

 

 

Which words do you think create the violent imagery in this quotation, and which don't?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Words which create violent imageryWords which don't create violent imagery
"Explode"
"Beneath"
"Children"
"Running"
"Nightmare"
"Heat"
"Fields"
EDDIE SAYS
The narrator uses this quotation to shock the reader into realising what childhood is like for children in war zones. The narrator makes the link that children in war zones and in England both play in fields, but that the children in war zones are always in danger of being killed in those fields by underlying bombs.
  • Question 7

Carol Anne Duffy's poetry often deals with the grittier and more disturbing parts of life. She uses dark humour to convey her social and political subject matter.

 

old photograph

 

The quotations below are all from the poem 'War Photographer'. Which do you think is a good example of the dark humour that the poet uses?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"A hundred agonies in black and white"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "A hundred agonies in black and white" is a good example of a pun (a joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words which sound alike but have different meanings). It is an example of Duffy's dark humour as the "black and white" refers to the newspapers but also puts emphasis on the morality - war is black and white.
  • Question 8

The poet creates a contrast between the war zones and the safety of being back home. The photographer wants people to know the truth, but he understands that a photo cannot explain the truth of what he saw.

 

In the third stanza of 'War Photographer', the narrator explains how he "remembers the cries of this man's wife". 

 

This quotation tells the reader that although they can see the suffering, they will not understand the actual agony as they did not hear what he did.

 

Which words do you think explain the narrator's emotions here, and which do not?

CORRECT ANSWER
 Words which explain his emotionsWords which do not explain his emotions
Helpless
Tired
Distressed
Regretful
Shocked
Guilty
Annoyed
Happy
EDDIE SAYS
This is a very emotive quotation as the man is clearly distressed and shocked by the terrible things he has seen. The narrator even feels guilty that he is taking pictures, but knows the wife wants him to, so that people back in England can see what is happening in the war zone.
  • Question 9

It could be said that the poet is similar to a 'War Photographer' as she is using language to describe what happened, as they are using photographs.

 

Throughout the poem, Duffy adds the context of our everyday lives and asks us to consider how lucky we are to have such luxuries.

 

bath

 

The quotations below are all taken from the poem 'War Photographer.' Choose one quotation which you think explains the point above.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
"Between the bath and pre-lunch beers"
EDDIE SAYS
The quotation "Between the bath and pre-lunch beers" juxtaposes (creates a contrast) of "tears" with the very comfortable images of "bath" and "pre-lunch beers". This can be read almost angrily, their tears are meaningless and this is a small pause in their life, not of real worth to them.
  • Question 10

The poet includes the context of the reader's own lives as she urges them to consider how they have been desensitized towards the conflict.

 

Desensitized = having been made less likely to feel shock or distress at scenes of cruelty or suffering by overexposure to such images.

 

Read the last line of the poem and choose an answer from each column for the following questions.

 

"From the aeroplane he stares impassively at where
he earns his living and they do not care"

 

aeroplane

 

 

Who is the poet referring to here?

 

What is the photographer's view of his home country?

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The final line refers to readers of the newspaper and those in the wider world. The poet is suggesting that people have become so used to seeing these images that they no longer care! The photographer also realises how safe and comfortable England is compared to other parts of the world.
Try it ---- OR ----

Sign up for a £1 trial so you can track and measure your child's progress on this activity.

What is EdPlace?

We're your National Curriculum aligned online education content provider helping each child succeed in English, maths and science from year 1 to GCSE. With an EdPlace account you’ll be able to track and measure progress, helping each child achieve their best. We build confidence and attainment by personalising each child’s learning at a level that suits them.

Get started
laptop

Start your £1 trial today.
Subscribe from £10/month.