Nikons and Icons
Is the aestheticization-of-suffering critique still valid?
David Levi Strauss
No Caption Needed:
Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy
by Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites
$30.00 List Price
There was a time, at the end of the 1980s, when the critique of documentary photography based on the “aestheticization of suffering” was so influential that it became virtually impossible to defend documentary practice. Any such defense was regarded as at best naive and at worst ideologically suspect.
Then came 9/11. I have argued elsewhere that the attack on the Twin Towers, the most photographed event in history, effectively reset the clock on documentary images, clearing away years of accumulated censure. The affective unreality of the event cried out for representation, and most people experienced it as an image. Photography’s special capacity as a medium for mourning brought us close to it again and made us realize how much we need public, shared images to make sense of such events. Susan Sontag’s book
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