War Sounds

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:

What a bomb looks like exploding at 1/320th of a second

What a bomb looks like exploding at 1/320th of a second

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.

22 thoughts on “War Sounds

  1. Hey Sebastian …

    Just followed your link from the BJP website.. Great article and completely agree with what you’re saying.

    I’ve listened to the audio a few times whilst looking at your image of the bomb explosion .. it’s surreal just thinking about it never mind being there in front of it all.

    But what you don’t see in the photo is whats beyond the visual right in front of you .. The sound of the bomb is immense but it’s the popping of the gun fire from near and far and people shouting, presumably jostling for positions or cover … this is what makes it even more real for me.

    Great work and I take my hat off to you.

    Take care bro.

  2. Great theory and well done for doing it and posting. I photographed The Falklands War back in 1982 and the images don’t show 2 things – the cold and the noise.

  3. Incredible! How did you record the noise of the bomb? I’d love to experiment with something like this. Not in a war zone I hasten to add. :) Is there a good audio recording device you use in the field that can capture the ambient noise effectively?

  4. Thanks for the lovely comments, guys.

    Thomas, I had a very basic set-up which isn’t great: I had a small boom mic plugged into a handheld recorder. I shoved both into a hip pouch with the mic poking out the top. It gets the general ambient sound, but it’s not great when you’re walking, as it picks up each step you take.

    Perhaps you could get some sort of hat you could attach the mic to. You might not look that cool, but you’d probably get the clearest sound.

  5. Hi Seb, not a new idea but one that is likely to become ever more important. Your explosion has that feel of reality (and probably a need for a change of underweear!).

    Audio is very easy to manipulate and hard to detect if done well(I used to be a sound editor for movies). How do you feel about using edited sound? Does it lose the truth of the moment?

    I can guarantee that many, many sounds will be sorced from sound efects libraries for this sort of work, how do we determine whether an accompanying sound track is ‘documentary’ or ‘theatrical’?

    Does it matter?

  6. Pingback: La relation entre l’audio et la photographie : Basile Simon – Regard

  7. Hi there,
    I love your image and the combination of the sound/image. I absolutely agree with you…now days we are bombarded of images and no one pays attention more than a second to an image…specially if it is in a newspaper!!!

    Funnily enough few months ago’ I have made a book about ‘Freedom and Immigration in Lampedusa’ combining images with sounds and music in order for people to interact with the whole story rather than just flicking through the images… ;0)

    Good work and take care!!!!

  8. Pingback: Experimenta con la fotografía sonora - Photoshop Servicios Web Gratis | Photoshop Servicios Web Gratis

  9. Pingback: War Sounds – Seb Meyer Research « jackhindsphoto

  10. Pingback: Sebastian Meyer Interview. « PHONAR

  11. Pingback: PHOTOSENSE: Sebastian Meyer Interview « Josephine Sutton

  12. Pingback: Metropolis: Matthew Herbert, The End of Silence | Partial Durations

  13. Pingback: Sebastian Meyer – War Sounds | SoundRecLewis

  14. Pingback: Sebastian Meyer – War Sounds // Matthew Herbert – The End of Silence | SoundRecLewis

  15. Pingback: az photo news | Listening in: The use of audio in photography (British Journal of Photography)

  16. Pingback: Music Review: Matthew Herbert – The End of Silence « SliverJewelry.com

  17. Pingback: Q&A: Producer Matthew Herbert on the mortality of his music | Music | Arts | National Post

  18. Pingback: christophertrafford.co.uk » Practice of ambience

  19. Pingback: War is not quiet. | (…) | blog

  20. Pingback: Sebastian Meyer ”War Sounds’ | tanialouisemerriman

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *