Visual Communication Preserves Military History

Visual communication is the communication of ideas through the visual display of information. Primarily associated with two dimensional images, it includes: art, signs, photography, composition, drawing essentials and in the modern era digital electronic resources.

Preserving South African history at its best will undoubtedly be the historic drawings of the San people found throughout the Southern Borders of Africa. Many paintings are storytelling images of the military conflicts perceived by them.

“The past is ours to celebrate and the future is ours to shape”


Art depicting military themes has existed throughout history. As military forces employ around the world there are a group of individuals who put their lives on the line to capture moments of activities to provide the inside picture of military history.

Military art creates a visual account of military conflict by showing its impact as men and women are shown waiting, preparing, fighting, suffering, and celebrating.

The subjects encompass many aspects of war, and the individual's experience of war, whether allied or opposing forces, service or civilian, military or political, social or cultural. The thematic range embraces the causes, course and consequences of conflict.

War art, a significant expression of any culture and its significant legacies, combines artistic and documentary functions to provide a pictorial portrayal of war scenes and show "how war shapes lives”. Military art encompasses actions of military forces in times of peace.


“There is one thing the photography must contain, the humanity of the moment. This kind of photography is realism. But realism is not enough - there has to be vision, and the two together can make a good photograph.” – Robert Frank”

“When you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes. When you photograph people in black and white, you photograph their soul!” – Ted Grant

When I did research on writing this article I came across this person, War Photographer, Stacey Pearsall, demonstrating the value of photography during and for the future planning of military operations. This is a short summary of how powerful photography in the military environment really is:

In 2003, Stacy was sent to her first combat mission in Iraq. In the years that followed, she traveled to the Horn of Africa, Lebanon, and back to Iraq. She spent an average of 280 days a year away from home covering a range of military operations from combat assault missions to humanitarian relief missions. But all the while, her purpose was clear:

My primary goal was getting real-time combat imagery from the battlefield to the Joint Combat Camera Center in Washington DC. The President, Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff used my pictures to make informed decisions on military tactics and maneuvers in the battle space. The photos were also disseminated to news agencies such as the Associated Press and Getty Images and were picked up by several newspapers, magazines and online newsgathering sites.

Photography at times of war or even during humanitarian operations becomes "a tussle between the world of the imagination and the world of action" — a constant tension between the factual representation of events and images capture those events.

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” – Ansel Adams

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