Although there was a lively trade with negatives and prints at the front, the majority of amateur photographers were not thinking of a specific recipient but instead photographed what seemed to them to be of documentary value. They recorded what appeared to reflect their experiences of the war. In this way, their photographs contradicted the official image of the war as published in newspapers and magazines.
The illustrated press had a decisive influence on the imagery of the war. It provided a social context in which the photographic image became a medium for social communication. However, the visual representation pattern of the war in the press was also subject to military control and censorship.
The mass spread and use of photographic technology led to a 'democratisation' of photography during the First World War – a phenomenon that was to characterise the 20th century.
Technical achievements at the beginning of the 20th century allowed the use of aerial photography as a strategic element in warfare. The aircraft became a tool for seeing, the camera a weapon. Aerial reconnaissance created new space for warfare, providing a previously unobtainable view over the war zones.
In the wars of the 19th century, the considerable effort involved in taking photographs meant that photographers were only able to observe the action from the margins. The photographers at the front in the First World War, on the other hand, were a fixed part of the military groups.
In the second half of the war, the focus of war reporting shifted to the medium of photography. The aim behind the WPH's deployment of official war photographers was to direct the public's visual perception of the war.
The War Press Headquarters (WPH) increased military propaganda as a means of directing public media for military purposes. Controls and censorship were intended to ensure that no unauthorised texts or images reached the public.