Visions of War

Shooting Under Fire: The World of the War Photographer Edited by Peter Howe. | $35.

The images in this harrowing and evocative collection of photographs convey with breathtaking intimacy the full horror of war and also its pathos. Some of the most arresting juxtapose the recognizable with the unimaginable: A Chechen mother and son walk hand in hand beneath a brilliant blue sky through the bombed-out rubble of Grozny. There is casual cruelty: A Serb militiaman, Kalashnikov in one hand, cigarette clutched gingerly in the other, kicks a face-down woman on a Bosnian sidewalk. Indeed, there is much here to shock and appall — including photographs of immolated Iraqi corpses from the first Gulf War.

But what makes this collection especially compelling is the way in which the photographers thought- fully reflect on their work. War photos are “a kind of intervention,” explains one, James Nachtwey. “They create consciousness, and from consciousness, conscience grows.” One comes away from this book with a deepened respect not just for the photographers’ courage, but for their humanity.