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Drôle de guerrier18/10/2012 - par Mark Tungate (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Can war be beautiful? Of course not - but it turns out that war photography can be compelling, brilliantly composed and, in a peculiar way, romantic. In 1940, the English fashion photographer Cecil Beaton, best known for his work for Vogue, was hired by the Ministry of Information in London to document the war. The Ministry wanted propaganda. Cecil Beaton delivered an adventure story.
The results are on show at the Imperial War Museum in London. We join Beaton at the outbreak of war: a lean, aristocratic figure, wearing a bow tie and a Rolleiflex camera. He photographs the smoke and ruins of the Blitz; and a stoical cigar-puffing Winston Churchill. Then he trades in his pinstriped suit for a uniform and sets off around the world on the HMS Alcantara. We see him in the nightclubs of Cairo and in the Sahara with the Long Range Desert Group, a bunch of roguish commandos who look like landlocked pirates. We follow him to India and China, equally at home in backstreets and palaces. He photographs soldiers and civilians, maharajas and princesses. Then he flies home by seaplane. Beaton's war has a dash of Hollywood and a touch of Hergé. But the danger was real - he survived a plane crash and a bullet through the windscreen of his Jeep. Yet with the distance of time we envy his colourful voyage, captured in black and white. For details and images see www.iwm.org.uk.