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The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violenceby Susie Linfield
Synopses & Reviews
Since the early days of photography, critics have told us that photos of political violence—of torture, mutilation, and death—are exploitative, deceitful, even pornographic. To look at these images is voyeuristic; to turn away is a gesture of respect.
With The Cruel Radiance, Susie Linfield attacks those ideas head-on, arguing passionately that viewing such photographs—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 our capacity for cruelty. Contending 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 has—and 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.
About the Author
Susie Linfield is associate professor of journalism at New York University, where she directs the Cultural Reporting and Criticism program. She has been an editor for American Film, the Village Voice, and the Washington Post and has written for a wide range of publications, includingthe Los Angeles Times Book Review, New York Times, Bookforum, Rolling Stone, and the Nation.
Table of Contents
Preface: The Black book — Polemics. A little history of photography criticism; or, Why do photography critics hate photography? — Photojournalism and human rights: the calamity of the Kodak — Places. Warsaw, Loda, Auschwitz: in the waiting room of death — China: from Malraux's dignity to the Red Guards' shame — Sierra Leone: beyond the sorrow and the pity — Abu Ghraib and the jihad: the dance of civilizations — People. Robert Capa: the optimist — James Nachtwey: the catastrophist — Gilles Peress: the skeptic.
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