Braving Untold Dangers: War Correspondents

30.6.2017 – 30.4.2018

Thematic Exhibition Gallery,
Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence

Western news agencies have had war correspondents since the 19th century. They followed armies to cover the war and reported through telegrams what they saw and heard on the battlefront to readers far away. Their recordings of major events have served as important references for future generations. Working for The Times of London, William Howard Russell, earned renown for his objective and fact-based coverage of the Crimean War (1853-1856). He is considered to be a role model by subsequent generations of professional war correspondents in modern history.

The advances in image-capturing technology and the rapid improvements to photographic equipment brought a new dimension to newspaper reporting in war zone coverage. Owing to technical and environmental restrictions, photographers were able to shoot their pictures only before or after the battles, presenting relatively static images in the early days. However, those early images still provided readers with a compelling understanding beyond the text, and were able to reveal the horror and cruelty of war in sometimes shocking detail.

As the scale of warfare has expanded and weapons have become increasingly deadly, war correspondents are constantly in immense danger as they report on and capture images of what is happening on the frontlines. To avoid intelligence leaks, their work is usually tightly controlled by the military and sometimes censored. Despite these constraints and other obstacles, many war correspondents continued, with their keen sense of what was newsworthy and often at the risk of their own lives, to write articles and reports accompanied by visually moving images. Their coverage has not only recorded critical moments of events, but also revealed the violence associated with war, and stimulated both mass rejection of the horror of war and deep sympathy for its victims.

This exhibition reviews the emergence of war correspondents and the role they have played in wars and conflicts, while also featuring stories of local journalists who have covered hostilities in various regions. Mention is made of several major wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Crimean War, the First Sino-Japanese War, the two world wars and the Vietnam War, etc. The reports, images and footage created by war correspondents would help us understand the cruelty and brutality of war, and the damage it has brought to families, communities and nations. They also inspire visitors to consider the value of peace.