War is not quiet. In fact, it is the opposite: loud. Very loud.
Photographs, on the other hand, don’t make any noise. They don’t even move. So it is really hard (although not impossible) to translate the sounds and chaos of war into a photograph.
Recently on the New York Times Lens Blog, Tyler Hicks talks about just this:
Conflict is very difficult to capture in a still photograph. Once you take away the sound and the motion, when you’re trying to capture that feeling and that atmosphere, it’s very difficult to translate — what it feels like to be there, the confusion and gunfire and bombs and all these things that envelop you in battle. To take a single photograph of that is a challenge.
To illustrate the point, here is a photograph I took of a bomb dropped from a pro-Gaddafi warplane in Ras Lanuf, Libya:
And this is what it sounded like (followed by me running):
There is something terrifying in the sound, that the photograph just can’t capture. There is no composition to the sound. No thought. Just the raw noise of a bomb falling and exploding.
And that’s what it’s like to be there. Raw. Unpredictable. And very very loud.