The Horrors Of War Photographed By Nick Danziger: Reviewed

Nick Danziger, Imperial War Museum ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 26 months ago
The Horrors Of War Photographed By Nick Danziger: Reviewed Nick Danziger, Imperial War Museum 3
This 10 year old has had to grow up fast, as she's now responsible for her younger brothers. © Nick Danziger/

War is hell, as the saying goes. And this exhibition of photographs, and the stories that go alongside them, doesn't hold back putting that message across.

Nick Danziger has travelled to many countries to see the aftermath of war, specifically on women, and it's understandably very hard hitting. On our visit we saw one person have to step outside for a moment, as she was overcome by some of the works — this is not easy viewing.

A woman in Serbia finally receives the body of her husband after waiting for four years, and the mourning process can begin. While over in Bosnia another woman had to wait 15 years to find out what happened to her family. This is one example of how Danziger elects to show both sides of a conflict: all sides suffer in war. Likewise there are photographs of both Israeli and Palestinian heartache.

A story of a woman in Sierra Leone who was repeatedly raped and then abandoned when she gave birth, makes for hard reading. But it does have a happy outcome as she later married and now has a second child. This exhibition tracks a set of women for many years to show how life moves on and to highlight that even war victims can recover, their spirits remain unbroken.

The downside of the show is that the photographs often lack the impact of the narratives they accompany. A photograph of war can often tell a harrowing story on its own, but with Danziger's work it often feels as if their bite comes from the accompanying text, not the image itself.

The one exception is of a 10 year old girl called Mah Bibi, her piercing gaze shows us how she has had to grow up fast as she's now responsible for both her younger brothers. Still, compared to some of the great war photographers such as Don McCullin and Kai Wiedenhofer, Danziger often lacks the ability to convey a narrative with photography alone.

IWM contemporary: Nick Danziger is on at Imperial War Museum until 24 April. Entrance is free.

Last Updated 12 February 2016

Continued below.


Hi Tabish,

I went to this exhibition yesterday and such is the power and validity of this exhibition that I felt inclined to comment on your review.

Naturally as with any exhibition such as this, opinions are entirely subjective. However I can't begin to understand why such an important and landmark work of story telling could be reviewed with only 3 out of 5. To merely consider this exhibition a "photography exhibition" I believe is to miss the point, this is the story of eleven people and how unfair the world can be to them. I can't stress the importance of this exhibition enough, and how much I hope that as many people as possible should feel compelled to understand the stories being told.

I just can't agree at all that Danziger lacks the ability to convey a narrative with his photography, the reaction of the people in the exhibition is testament to that. As you mention in your review, one person found the stories so emotionally powerful that she had to step outside. How would this be possible if the images lacked said narrative?

In today's world of overly powerful imagery, on screen violence and debauchery, perhaps we have developed a certain desensitization to images of this nature. There is an artful touch in being able to get the narrative across whilst allowing people to retain their dignity.

This is not just an exhibition, it is a window to a world that, thankfully, most of us will never know. And for that reason I feel it to be one of the most important and well executed exhibitions that London is likely to see this year.