It's the eyes which always get me in photographs of people caught up in war zones. Often they are deadened with the life drained out of them. Occasionally, they are defiant. They might be gazing off into the middle-distance or looking directly over the photographer's shoulders at some incoming danger. Even when a smile plays on a subject's lips, the eyes are generally not playing along with the charade.

In David Pratt's exhibition of war photographs, currently on show at brand new arts space, Sogo Arts in Glasgow's Saltmarket, his subjects' eyes draw the viewer in as they survey the effects of war in all its guises. The eyes tell stories of anger, despair, acceptance, fear, trepidation and defiance.

The exhibition title, Only With The Heart, is a quote from French writer and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's classic children's book, The Little Prince in which a pilot discovers a small boy from another planet - the Little Prince of the title - in the desert. The full quote is: "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

Readers of this newspaper will be familiar with David Pratt's work as both a writer and a photographer. In a four decade-long career working as a war correspondent and covering foreign affairs in print and on screen, he has covered conflicts in war zones all over the globe; from Afghanistan to El Salvador, Northern Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Eastern Ukraine, Somalia and more.

In this exhibition, which features 70 black and white photographs shot between 1985 and 2018, Pratt has on the one hand, set a barrier between his own eyes and his heart, in the shape of his camera. On the other hand, as an award-winning journalist, he has consistently set his testimony down in words. In the interests of objectivity, and in the heat of the moment, his heart has been out of necessity once-removed from this process.

Despite the tough exterior – the flack jacket and the analytical dissection of conflicts the world over – Pratt is also an artist and he sees and feels with the eyes and heart of an artist. One senses in every one of these images the demons which still lurk behind the flatness of his photographs.

Pratt's hero, Henri Cartier-Bresson, once said that he regarded the spontaneity of photography as being a form of accelerated drawing. Before he took up his metaphorical sword in the shape of a reporter's notebook and pen combined with his trusty camera, Pratt studied fine art at the Glasgow School of Art (GSA). He then went on to teach art and design history at the world-famous art school. His first assignment in a war zone was in 1985. In the wake of the leftist revolution by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), which overthrew the dictatorship of President Anastasio Somoza Debayle, he travelled to the Nicaraguan capital of Managua.

One of the most striking images in the exhibition dates to that period. In the months and years that followed, Pratt covered what he calls "the humanitarian fallout" from the civil war raging in neighbouring El Salvador.

His photograph of a mother and child in Colomoncagua Camp, Honduras, has a grainy, painterly texture which today's digital photography doesn't come within an iota of possessing. The naked child's swollen belly and the young mother's steady unfathomable gaze as she holds her baby close make this scene almost as powerful as a Bellini Madonna and Child painting.

Several of the photographs are redolent of paintings or Victorian etchings. Another pre-digital image shows a family crossing the Hindu Kush mountains on the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier in 1988. It reminded me of a heat-soaked Arthur Melville watercolour. This Scottish artist, a close associated of the Glasgow Boys group of artists, made an arduous trip to the Middle East in the 1881, bringing back a large tranche of watercolour sketches as well as tales of derring-do adventures, which included being pursued on horseback by bandits, dodging bullets and being cast into prison as a spy by a Pasha in Kurdistan.

The 70 photographs in this exhibition represent a tiny portion of Pratt's vast pictorial archive, gathered from a career in journalism spanning almost four decades. There is a story behind every photograph and should you happen to meet Pratt, he can give you chapter and verse about the scenario behind each one.

He is a gifted raconteur and even as you read this, a documentary about his life and work is being filmed for a BBC Scotland documentary. One people-less photograph stood out for me as capturing his feel for depicting a moment in time. Taken in 1995 at the entranceway to the devastated Kabul Zoo, Pratt has captured a scene from the tail end of the Afghan Civil War in which we see a battered and bruised wild native goat. Behind the animal, a tank's protruding gun mimics the creature's horn. A lesson in showing, not telling.

Printed on thick museum quality rag roll paper, the photographs are not grouped together by genre or by war-zone, and he has been careful not to shock for shock's sake – although some do rock you back on your heels. One photograph, taken in Columbia in 2014, shows an exhumed coffin with rotting corpse exposed to the heat. A man and a woman stand beside it. The woman is staring at the corpse while the man – with a tiger printed on his t-shirt – stares at Pratt's lens. His gaze is impossible to read.

In another photograph, hungry people are gathered for UN food distribution in Kabul, Afghanistan in 1996. All the people in a heaving crowd are reaching out to the source of the food. All that is, apart from one girl, whose gaze alights on Pratt's lens off to the side. How did this sad state of affairs end for that young woman, you can't help but wonder?

Pratt's portraits in particular aim several metaphorical blows to the solar plexus. There is the 95-year-old Syrian refugee whose life is etched on the lines on his face, the wee boy traumatised by war in North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a woman in Malawi diagnosed with HIV left to look after her three kids, and a man waiting outside an aid station in South Sudan. All the subjects face the lens fairly and squarely, dignified in privation. All sublimely conscious of the fact that by offering themselves up to scrutiny, the message will get through to a wider world.

Oddly, given the number of shocking images on show, I gasp at the sight of a skeletal camel like a cut out from a kids story book, sniffing at a medieval-looking grain stores destroyed by Islamist insurgent in Niger in 2012. "If you think that is bad, look at this poor woman," the artist tells me. "She was living on termites."

One thing is clear. No punches have been pulled in the putting together of this retrospective, which looks set to travel to The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh next year. Catch it while you can.

David Pratt: Only With The Heart, Sogo Arts, 82-86 Saltmarket, Glasgow, G1 5LY, https://www.facebook.com/sogomag/ Open daily (apart from Monday), 10am-6pm. Until November 8

Critic's Choice

Long-established artist-run organisation, The Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts' (RGI), has been flying the flag for contemporary art since 1861. It's fair to say RGI is not generally associated with cutting edge conceptual art, but this new exhibition, which opens this afternoon, is coming out of the traps running this autumn with a new show of Turner Prize nominees who all have a connection to the Glasgow School of Art (GSA). The gallery, which is just a short walk down the hill from GSA's main campus in Garnethill, has had a fresh injection of energy of late and this new show will attract many art fans, old and new.

Curated by respected former GSA teacher and artist Sam Ainsley, together with"New Glasgow Boy" and RGI President, Adrian Wiszniewski, it features work by a group of artists who have all trained, at one point, at GSA. All 15 artists have been nominated for the prestigious Turner Prize and they include; Karla Black, David Shrigley, Jim Lambie and Christine Borland, Ciara Philips and Rosalind Nashashibi. Many were taught by the powerhouse that is Ainsley, while she was head of the GSA's internationally-acclaimed Master of Fine Art (MFA) course.

This is the first time that the works have been exhibited together. Many are from private collections. It will give an exclusive glimpse of the diverse talent on offer from GSA alumni. The exhibition also boasts works by Turner Prize winners including Douglas Gordon (1996), Simon Starling (2005) and Richard Wright (2009).

The exhibition is timed to begin at the same time as Turner Prize 2019, which opens today (Sat Sep 28) at Turner Contemporary in Margate. One of these year’s finalists, Tai Shani, has been nominated for her participation in Glasgow International, 2018.

Exhibition of Turner Prize Nominees, RGI Kelly Gallery, 118 Douglas St, Glasgow G2 4ET, 0141 248 6386, https://theroyalglasgowinstituteofthefinearts.co.uk/, Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5pm. Closed Sunday and Monday. October 1 until November 2.

Don't Miss

Damian Henry's lifelong love and fascination for animals and birds has created many memorable images. The current spotlight on endangered species extends his focus in this featured exhibition at Glasgow Print Studio, which ends today. Henry's new, large dramatic, powerful prints really pack a punch. These hand-coloured relief prints are accompanied by Henry's characteristic fine line etchings of jaguars, tigers, cats, dogs, and many more.

Damien Henry: Creatures as Natural Hunters, Glasgow Print Studio, Trongate 103, Glasgow, G1 5HD, 0141 552 0704, www.glasgowprintstudio.co.uk, Tuesday – Saturday, 10am-5.30pm, Sunday 12pm-5pm (closed Monday). Ends today (Sat 29 September)