Press Release

The National WWII Museum Opens New Exhibit The Real Image of War: Steichen and Ford in the Pacific

NEW ORLEANS (April 13, 2022) The National WWII Museum announces its newest special exhibit, The Real Image of War: Steichen and Ford in the Pacific. The exhibit, which runs through January 3, 2023, explores the art of documentary photography—specifically that of Navy Captain Edward Steichen and Hollywood film director John Ford—as well as the military application of the camera.

Located in the Senator John Alario, Jr. Special Exhibition Hall, The Real Image of War is designed to feel like an art gallery and explores seven themes within the galleries:

  • Camera Obscura introduces the concept of documentary photography as a high art form by looking at the history of military photography in the United States and comparing it to the rise of artistic photography in the early 1900s.
  • The First Photomates details the beginnings of US Navy photography and the first official enlisted photographer W. L. Richardson. Through his work and the establishment of the Naval Photography School at NAS Pensacola, thousands of US Navy Photographer’s Mates spread through the fleet to document World War II.
  • Tools of the Trade examines the technology and types of still and motion cameras used by the US Navy during the war, showing the differences between personal cameras, combat cameras and aerial mapping cameras.
  • The Magic of Skill examines the technical process of development, enlarging, printing, censoring and transmitting photographs taken on distant battlefields. Additionally, this section addresses the various military uses for photographs and film in support of the drive across the Pacific.
  • Steichen Sent Me explores the story of Edward Steichen and his entrance into naval service at the beginning of the war by looking at the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit he established. Important to this narrative is the work of the “original 6,” the group of professional photographers Steichen recruited to document the war and the legacy of their photographs.
  • They Were Expendable explores the diverse types of film produced by Hollywood film director John Ford, with an emphasis on his documentary work about the Battle of Midway and the last film he made for the US Navy, They Were Expendable.
  • Legacy discusses the legacy of the film and still images produced by US Navy Photographer’s Mates, Edward Steichen and his unit, and John Ford—and how these images are still relevant today as a lasting visual memory of the US Navy’s service during the war in the Pacific.

Curated by the Museum’s Josh Schick, the exhibit juxtaposes the military photography produced by US Navy Photographer’s Mates against that of the Naval Aviation Photographic Unit under the command of Edward Steichen and the documentaries produced by Hollywood film director John Ford.

“By demonstrating the technology of the camera, using dramatic imagery and footage of everything from combat to the ordinary life of the US Navy sailor, The Real Image of War will probe the supposed objectivity of documentary photography and examine the motives of the men behind the camera who created a visual record of the war in the Pacific,” said Schick.

The Real Image of War includes wall graphics and framed original prints from Steichen’s Naval Aviation Photography Unit, as well as other iconic photographs, and work produced by enlisted sailors. Additional objects like cameras, developing equipment, an Iwo Jima relief map, uniforms, and souvenirs brought back by cameramen set the scene further, and audio-visual components such as oral histories and period film segments explore the exhibit’s documentary film aspect.

“The same tool that could be used to plan a military operation also served as a form of artistic expression that has left an important legacy,” said Schick.

The Real Image of War: Steichen and Ford in the Pacific is generously sponsored by The Abra Prentice Foundation, Iron Mountain, Lois and Lloyd Hawkins, Jr. Foundation and Goody Two Shoes, Inc. For more information, visit

The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that all generations will understand the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit