Themes: War, Death/Human Suffering, Vivid language/imagery, Religious Imagery

Type: Regular form


  • Written by Carol Ann Duffy – first female Poet Laureate
  • Poem explores the differences between Rural England and a warzone
  • The photographer doesn’t feel at home in the warzone – “impassively” “where he earns his living” – but doesn’t feel at home in Rural England either.


  • Third person
  • Subject is a war photographer
  • Quote from the Bible (“All fresh is grass”) – the impermanence of human life
  • Describes a “half-formed ghost”
  • “tears will prick their eyes” – but only between a bath and pre-lunch beers meaning it won’t affect them for long and will return to their leisurely life
  • Uses very vivid language and imagery to convey to horror in warzones
  • Alliteration – “spools of suffering”
  • The image of mines exploring beneath the feet of children is horrific


  • The first verse conveys how seriously the photographer takes his work – compares his work to a priest’s at Mass (religious symbolism)
  • Describes how his hands tremble while he is developing photographs – his hands were steady when taking the pictures, but his feeling can emerge in his darkroom
Poem Comparison Essays: ‘Prayer Before Birth’ and ‘War Photographer’


  • Unusual rhyming scheme – ABBCDD – which gives a sense of orderliness contrasts this it subject (human suffering)
  • Regular form – a way of containing, controlling and dealing with the pain and anger the poet feels
  • Form is unchanging, the stanzas are all the same length and the rhyme is constant suggesting that nothing will ever change; despite the photographer’s efforts
  • The poem is circular, a closed loop where nothing can change

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Cite this article as: William Anderson (Schoolworkhelper Editorial Team), "War Photographer – Carol Ann Duffy: Poem Analysis," in SchoolWorkHelper, 2019,
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