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The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence

The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence

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The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence

valutazioni:
5/5 (5 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
321 pagine
Pubblicato:
May 27, 2011
ISBN:
9780226482521
Formato:
Libro

Descrizione


In The Cruel Radiance, Susie Linfield challenges the idea that photographs of political violence exploit their subjects and pander to the voyeuristic tendencies of their viewers. Instead she argues passionately that looking at such images—and learning to see the people in them—is an ethically and politically necessary act that connects us to our modern history of violence and probes the human capacity for cruelty. Grappling with critics from Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht to Susan Sontag and the postmoderns—and analyzing photographs from such events as the Holocaust, China’s Cultural Revolution, and recent terrorist acts—Linfield explores the complex connection between photojournalism and the rise of human rights ideals. In the book’s concluding section, she examines the indispensable work of Robert Capa, James Nachtwey, and Gilles Peress and asks how photography should respond to the increasingly nihilistic trajectory of modern warfare.
A bracing and unsettling book, The Cruel Radiance convincingly demonstrates that if we hope to alleviate political violence, we must first truly understand it—and to do that, we must begin to look.
Pubblicato:
May 27, 2011
ISBN:
9780226482521
Formato:
Libro

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  • (5/5)
    Susie Linfield begins her extraordinary work with a quotation from Baudelaire, who wrote that "passion... raises reason to new heights." After reading those words, I sensed quickly that I would find this work not only intellectually stimulating but deeply affecting. And I did. Despite the density and raw intensity of the content, I read the last half of the book in a few hours. I could hardly put it down. It made me think very hard.Linfield centers her discussion on two fundamental issues which have haunted photojournalism and documentary photography since their inceptions. One involves the moral implications of viewing violence and barbarism--is the photographer replicating the crime of exploitation by laying bear the suffering of others, and, by association, should we be arrested for the crime of looking with both horror and fascination? The other issue involves Linfield's problem with postmodernists, who have intellectually thrived on their own vehement suspicions of reality and the real (referring to Benjamin, Krakauer, and Baudrillard). She puts Susan Sontag's ideas under careful scrutiny, and though the author never says so directly, basically says that Sontag is wrong. To argue that photographs of political violence "do not say anything to us" is not only counterintuitive, but it impedes the potential to find meaning, to strive to speak for what seems to be beyond words (and therefore, beyond human understanding). What is difficult to put into words is not the photos themselves but the twisted ideologies, the senseless cruelty and sadism, behind the dismembering, torture, wounding, and suffering. There are few photographs in Linfield's work. She relies on detailed description and commentary, and immerses herself in the discourses of history, politics, critical theory, witness testimony and biography. The apparent absence of the image illustrates, quite concretely, her defense of photographs as one of the most powerful incitements to deep reflection, mindful compassion, and hopefully, social change. Photos like those taken of the starvation in the Warsaw ghetto, the massacres of Sierra Leone, and genocide of Bosnia, should not inject us with a paralyzing guilt, as the postmodern thinkers would see it. Linfield writes at the end of chapter two: "The real issue is how we use images of cruelty. Can they help us make meaning of the present and the past? If so, what meanings do we make, and how do we act upon them? The ultimate answers to such questions reside not in the pictures but ourselves."
  • (5/5)
    Great