Realism or Iconography? The Pentagon’s Implicit Theory of Visual Representation


The following is an extract from my chapter, “A Flickr of Militarization: Photographic Regulation, Symbolic Consecration, and the Strategic Communication of ‘Good Intentions’,” published in Good Intentions: Norms and Practices of Imperial Humanitarianism (Montreal: Alert Press, 2014), pp. 185-279:

US military documents make it quite clear that, for the military, a photograph is a straightforward, truthful, and impartial record of reality as it appeared in front of the camera. However, at the same time these documents suggest that some images might be used as “enemy propaganda” whereas other images are safe in that they “support the mission” of the US military. Here I wish to outline what the US military has made available for the public record about its social media strategies, and in particular about its “Flickr strategy”.

Supporting the military’s mission and telling a story are the dual themes of the Pentagon’s visual media strategy. To…

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