The desert Arabs in the middle
6th March 1942: Cecil Beaton, the famous fashion photographer, has a distinctive approach to capturing the war in the desert
The noted fashion photographer Cecil Beaton abandoned his usual line of work for the ladies glossy magazines and spent most of the war working for the Ministry of Information. He produced a great volume of war related photography.
His artistic approach stood out from much of the conventional war reporting. He had a particular eye for finding patterns and contrasts in the scenes that he captured. His portraits of people at war were also distinctive, taking care to place his subjects within their context.
He had a special interest in the indigenous people of different regions and sought to record how they were affected by the war. In early March 1942 he noted in his diary1 his impressions of the North African war:
The Bedouins, in the wadis near the shore, watching the battle wage backwards and forwards along the tableland, consider the protagonists mad. They see first one army then another retiring in haste, leaving behind a wonderful amount of loot. The Bedouins steal forward and sell their spoils to the conquering army.