Contact: George Rodger’s War Photographs, Imperial War Museum North

Contact: George Rodger’s War Photographs, Imperial War Museum NorthMarking the centenary of the photographer’s death, Contact: George Rodger’s War Photographs makes for an impressive collection; a bombed Coventry street, a crowd gawping at a dead Japanese soldier, a Sudanese wrestler.

Generally, the images on display are notable for their harsh realism. Working for Life, an American publication before the US had entered the war, meant that George Rodger wasn’t subject to the same degree of censorship as others and so didn’t have to resort to tricks like asking an assistant to pose as a milkman. (Although the German soldier paying his respects at the grave of an unknown British airman, with downed plane in the background, looks a little staged to a cynic like me.)

There is certainly no filler here. Each image is powerful and worth a trip to Salford Quays; that George Rodger led an interesting life is plain for all to see. And yet there is no story.

We’re told that Magnum, the agency George Rodger was to co-found, was established in the aftermath of the war, but we’re offered no insight into this new and revolutionary agency’s philosophy or ways or working. Consequently, Contact is worth far less than the sum of its parts.
Contact: George Rodger’s War Photographs is at Imperial War Museum North now and until 27 April 2008

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