Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis

Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis

Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis

Picturing Atrocity: Photography in Crisis


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Ever since the landmark publication of Susan Sontag’s On Photography, it has been impossible to look at photographs, particularly those of violence and suffering, without questioning our role as photographic voyeur. Are we desensitized by the proliferation of these images, and does this make it easier to be passive and uninvolved? Or do the images immediately stir our own sense of justice and act as a call to arms? Are we consuming the suffering of others as a form of intrigue? Or is it an act of empathy?
To answer these questions, Picturing Atrocity brings together essays from some of the foremost writers and critics on photography today, including Rebecca Solnit, Alfredo Jaar, Ariella Azoulay, Shāhidul Alam, John Lucaites, Robert Hariman, and Susan Meiselas, to offer close readings of images that reveal the realities behind the photographs, the subjects, and the photographers. From the massacre of the Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee to the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, from famine in China to apartheid in South Africa, Picturing Atrocity examines a broad spectrum of photographs. Each of the essays focuses specifically on an iconic image, offering a distinct approach and context, in order to enable us to look again—and this time more closely—at the picture. In addition, four photo-essays showcase the work of photographers involved in the making of photographs of brutality as well as the artists’ own reflections on these images.
Together these essays cover the historical and geographical range of atrocity photographs and respond to current concerns about such disturbing images; they probe why we as viewers feel compelled to look even when our instinct might be to look away. Picturing Atrocity is an important read, not just for insights into photography, but for its reflections on human injustice and suffering. In keeping with that aim, all royalties from the book will be donated to Amnesty International.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781861898722
Publisher: Reaktion Books, Limited
Publication date: 06/15/2012
Edition description: Original
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Geoffrey Batchen is a photography historian and professor of art history at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Mick Gidley is emeritus professor of American literature and culture at the University of Leeds. Nancy K. Miller is Distinguished Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the Graduate Center of the City College of New York. Jay Prosser is a reader in the humanities in the School of English at the University of Leeds.

Table of Contents

      Jay Prosser

1. Response and Responsibility
Words Can Kill: Haiti and the Vocabulary of Disaster
      Rebecca Solnit
Visible and Invisible Scars of Wounded Knee
      Mick Gidley
Severed Hands: Authenticating atrocity in the Congo, 1904-13
      Christina Twomey
Atrocity and Action: The Performative Force of the Abu Ghraib Photographs
      Peggy Phelan
2. Becoming Iconic
Photographing Atrocity: Becoming Iconic?
      Griselda Pollock
The Iconography of Famine
      David Campbell
A Single Image of Famine in China
      D. J. Clark
History at a Standstill: Agency and Gender in the Image of Civil Rights
      Elizabeth Abel
3. Photographing Atrocity
Body on a Hillside
      Susan Meiselas
      Shāhidul Alam
4. Circulation and Public Culture
The Iconic Image of the Mushroom Cloud and the Cold War Nuclear Optic
      Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites
The Girl in the Photograph: The Visual Legacies of War
      Nancy K. Miller
Atrocity, the "As If," and Impending Death from the Khmer Rouge
      Barbie Zelizer
The Falling Man
      Tom Junod
5. Ordinary Atrocities
Street Photographs in Crisis: Cernauti, Romania, c. 1943
      Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer
Picturing the Perpetrator
      Paul Lowe
War Trophy Photographs: Proof or Pornography?
      Hilary Roberts
Picturing an "Ordinary Atrocity": The Sharpeville Massacre
      Darren Newbury
6. Atrocity Askance
Looking Askance
      Geoffrey Batchen
Documentary Pictorial: Luc Delahaye's Taliban, 2001
      Mark Durden
The Execution Portrait
      Ariella Azoulay
Toward a Hyperphotography
      Fred Ritchin
7. The Afterlife of Photographs
Lament of the Images
      Alfredo Jaar and David Levi Strauss
Photographic Interference
      Lorie Novak

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