Art & Art History ETDs


Sara Hagerty

Publication Date



Cultural conventions of appropriateness, social standards of artistic practice, and contemporary vernacular traditions of how to visually commemorate ones life impact snapshot photography. An analysis of American soldiers' snapshots taken during the Vietnam War from the National Veterans Art Museum's archive in Chicago reveals a unique set of images due to their origins as snapshots and their stylistic references to other visual frameworks that are historically used to represent war. Through an examination of the culture of snapshot making, the historic presence of cameras on the battlefield, the conditions faced by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, and the popular documentary styling of war photography, I determine that soldier-photographers in Vietnam reinterpret the conventional meaning of snapshot photography to express intimate photographic representations of the people they encountered and their traumatic war experiences. While a portion of the archive consists of photographs that represent idealized versions of the photographic subjects' personal traits or morals, such as honor, heroism, or masculine strength, amongst such representation are images that disrupt or are devoid of any positive moral or culturally appropriate qualities. Soldier-photographers snapshot style allows them to both confirm and conform their post-war reflections to meet the cultural expectations of their peers. The snapshots function as a self-constructed repository for memory, representing a soldier-photographer's eyewitness, historic authority, and successful participation in the Vietnam War. These snapshots are evidence that this approach to snapshot making is not an anomaly but rather a shared method of domesticating and representing one's personal experiences and witnessing of a critical event in American history.'



Document Type


Degree Name

Art History

Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Advisor

Zuromskis, Catherine

First Committee Member (Chair)

Hernandez-Duran, Ray

Second Committee Member

Penhall, Michele


War Photography, Snapshot Photography, Vietnam War, National Veterans Art Museum