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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Iconic Images of Political Violence Research Group

The Iconic Images of Political Violence Research Group explores iconic photographs of political violence and their after-lives on film.

The research produced by the group seeks to situate iconic images in their originating national contexts and trace their migration into wider transnational/cosmopolitan/global spaces.

The digital turn has fundamentally altered the status of the iconic image (as a way of representing the world and as an object of study), and our work seeks suitable ways of tracing, archiving, and understanding iconic images in this dramatically new context.

We seek answers to the following questions:

  • How do contexts of film production and reproduction, especially within distinct national histories, film industries, and in relation to discrete historical events, give shape to iconic images?
  • What happens to the status of the iconic image over time and as it is reproduced and recontextualised by filmmakers?
  • How do iconic images play a role in public understanding of instances of political violence by providing loci for contemplation, interrogation and controversy regarding the image’s meaning, and what is film’s specific role in this process?
  • How can iconic photographs be understood in relation to debates about medium specificity, in particular the shift between photograph and film, and between still and moving image?

Keywords: photography, film, propaganda, icon/iconicity/iconography, still/moving image, digital image, stasis, fixity, archive, post-modernism, indexicality, the post-cinematic, translation, intermediality, appropriation, ideology, cultural memory, oral history, aura, appropriation, digitization.

Dr Jeremy Hicks, Reader in Russian FilmJeremy Hicks


Currently working on an academic monograph focusing on ‘The Victory Banner’ and Russian cultural memory of World War Two, with a focus on the iconic photograph ‘Raising a flag over the Reichstag’ and related film texts. 

‘A Holy Relic of War: The Soviet Victory Banner as Artefact,’ in Patrick Finney (ed), Remembering the Second World War (London and New York: Routledge, 2017), pp.197-216.

‘Aid, Appropriation and Amnesia: Documentary Film and The Arctic Convoys of World War Two,’ in Lilya Kaganovsky, Scott McKenzie and Anna Stenport (eds), Arctic Cinema and the Documentary Ethos (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2017). 

‘Appropriating the presence of history: raising the Victory Banner over the Reichstag’, Screen, vol.57, no.3 (2016), pp. 362-370.


Dr Libby Saxton, Senior Lecturer in FilmLibby Saxton


Currently working on an academic monograph provisionally titled Cine-Icons: Photography, Film and Protest.

‘The Falling Soldier’ and film’, Screen, vol.57, no.3 (2016), pp. 353-361.

Night and Fog and the Concentrationary Gaze’, in Maxim Silverman and Griselda Pollock (eds) Concentrationary Cinema: Aesthetics as Political Resistance in Alain Resnais’s ‘Night and Fog’ (Oxford; New York: Berghahn, 2011), pp. 140–51.

Haunted Images: Film, Ethics, Testimony and the Holocaust (London: Wallflower, 2008) 


Dr Guy Westwell, Senior Lecturer in FilmGuy Westwell


'Acts of Redemption and ‘The Falling Man’ Photograph in Post-9/11 US Cinema', in American Cinema in the Shadow of 9/11 (Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2016), pp.67-88.

‘Flag-raising on Iwo Jima’ (1945) and the Hollywood war film, Screen, vol.57, no.3 (2016), pp. 343-352.

Parallel Lines: Post-9/11 American Cinema (London: Wallflower Press, 2014).

'Accidental Napalm Attack and hegemonic visions of America's war in Vietnam', Critical Studies in Media Communication, vol.28, no.5 (2011), pp.407-423. 

'One image begets another: a comparative analysis of Flag-raising on Iwo Jima and Ground Zero Spirit', Journal of War and Culture Studies, vol.1, no.3 (2008), pp.325-40.

In May 2017, Queen Mary hosted a two-day British Academy Funded conference titled, ‘Iconic and Archival Images of World War II’. Speakers included Professor Sylvie Lindeperg, (University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne), Professor Robert Hariman (Northwestern University School of Communication) Professor John Lucaites (Indiana University), and Prof Anja Tippner (University of Hamburg).

The Iconic Images of Political Violence Research Group is pleased to announce the publication of the jointly authored, ‘Dossier: Rising Flags, Falling Soldiers: Film, Icons and Political Violence,’ Screen, vol.57, no.3 (2016), pp. 336-361. The dossier consists of co-authored introduction and three separate articles exploring different facets of the relationship between iconic photographs and the cinema.

In June 2013, Queen Mary hosted an international one-day conference with papers by Richard Raskin (Aarhus), Toby Haggith (Imperial War Museum), Kate McLoughlin (Birkbeck), and Piotr Cieplak (SOAS). The combined case studies presented by the speakers focused on specific images associated with war and genocide with further reflection on the wider field and its underlying assumptions, methods and disciplinary contexts.

In 2012-13, Queen Mary hosted a series of talks on the subject of iconic images and film, including Dr Roy Grundmann discussing the ‘Crystal Image’ as guiding concept in the work Dr Matthias Mueller, Damian Sutton examining the use of digital time-lapse photography of San Francisco in David Fincher’s Zodiac, and Dr David H. Jones exploring the use of iconic images in the work of Silvia Kolbowski.

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