Kaplan, a surgeon and photographer, has used his position to discuss the nature of war photography and the explicit exhibition of ‘heavy duty’ war images showing injury, death and destruction. In general I think that I agree with his points on a number of grounds.
Firstly I think that the overt portrayal of such images can lead to a disenchantment and not a sense of inspiration to act (as has pointed out Sontag and other authors). Secondly, as Walden once said in so many words: once that you understand the nature of human suffering there is no need to keep on reading newspapers. The news is repetitive and the stories depict different versions of human madness or at least the human mind at its worst. Do people really want peace? This is a question that oft comes to mind. If they do why then after so many years of seeing battle scenes and being involved in human melodramas have things changed only a little?
Essentially the issue I think is one of appropriateness and intention. If the photographers’ intention is to show people the horror of war but is really concerned with a sensationalist response and photo book sale contract, one might conclude that this is an ethically dubious motive for a war photographer. On the other hand, if the image is more about making people stop, think and and act and the context of exhibition is adequate to the theme (and not a James Natchway champagne party whilst looking at gore) then perhaps its necessary to get the images out there, despite the effect on the public. The public has the choice to consume the photo or not. The photographer perhaps has a duty to try get the image out there.
However, I am aware that both institutions (magazine editors and the like) and photographers might sometimes have an idealogical clash and even different motives for demanding some images. And for this reason I imagine nowadays there are other outlets that let photographers distribute more freely their work.