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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  The most critical development of the period, however, was the convergence of the New Left and counterculture—two groups initially believed irreconcilable. Their fusion signified the amalgamation of “the personal” and “the political,” heralding the phrase that distinguished the period: “The personal is the political.” 23 The ramifications of this slogan underscored an even more profound transformation in American culture. As Charlotte Bunch wrote in “A Broom of One’s Own,” “[T]here is no private domain of a person’s life that is not political and there is no political issue that is not ultimately personal. The old barriers have fallen.” 24 The once sharp division between discrete entities was blunted. The unity of the personal and political had acute implications within the world of photography. Objectivity, the very nature of news coverage, reemerged as the target of abject criticism in the 1960s. Reporters could no longer viably present news simply as it happened, devoid of bias or personal style. Young reporters, calling for a more active, `participant’ journalism, echoing the demands of student activists, sought to articulate their passions and personal style. The photograph subsequently became a powerful piece of artillery. Employed as a weapon decrying American involvement in Vietnam, photography was transformed into a tool enabling the antiwar movement to graphically depict atrocities both at home and abroad. Ron Haeberle’s photographs of the My Lai massacre provide some of the most compelling specimens of photographic potency during this period. Human brutality was made visible, as Vietnamese children burned by napalm were seen running through the streets of their country in terror and intense pain. John Paul Filo’s images of the Kent State tragedy reveal a similar phenomenon. The photograph “Kent State—Girl Screaming over Dead Body, May 4, 1970,” commonly known as the “Girl with the Delacroix face,” was printed on the front page of the Times the day following the incident. Kneeling over her classmate’s bloodied body in horror, the girl’s facial expression amplifies the message Filo so vividly captured. A student waving an American flag at armed National Guardsmen was pictured beneath the photo of the girl, underscoring the political magnitude of the event—a reminder of why such a tragedy occurred. Politics had broken down. 23 E.J. Dionne, Jr. Why Americans Hate Politics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991) 41. 24 Charlotte Bunch, “A Broom of One’s Own: Notes on Women’s Liberation Program since the motive Magazine issue” in Sara M. Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights Movement and the New Left (New York: Vintage Books, 1979) 212.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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The most critical development of the period, however, was the convergence of the New Left and
counterculture—two groups initially believed irreconcilable. Their fusion signified the amalgamation of
“the personal” and “the political,” heralding the phrase that distinguished the period: “The personal is
the political.”
23
The ramifications of this slogan underscored an even more profound transformation in
American culture. As Charlotte Bunch wrote in “A Broom of One’s Own,” “[T]here is no private domain
of a person’s life that is not political and there is no political issue that is not ultimately personal. The old
barriers have fallen.”
24
The once sharp division between discrete entities was blunted.
The unity of the personal and political had acute implications within the world of photography.
Objectivity, the very nature of news coverage, reemerged as the target of abject criticism in the 1960s.
Reporters could no longer viably present news simply as it happened, devoid of bias or personal style.
Young reporters, calling for a more active, `participant’ journalism, echoing the demands of student
activists, sought to articulate their passions and personal style.
The photograph subsequently became a powerful piece of artillery. Employed as a weapon
decrying American involvement in Vietnam, photography was transformed into a tool enabling the
antiwar movement to graphically depict atrocities both at home and abroad. Ron Haeberle’s photographs
of the My Lai massacre provide some of the most compelling specimens of photographic potency during
this period. Human brutality was made visible, as Vietnamese children burned by napalm were seen
running through the streets of their country in terror and intense pain. John Paul Filo’s images of the Kent
State tragedy reveal a similar phenomenon. The photograph “Kent State—Girl Screaming over Dead
Body, May 4, 1970,” commonly known as the “Girl with the Delacroix face,” was printed on the front
page of the Times the day following the incident. Kneeling over her classmate’s bloodied body in horror,
the girl’s facial expression amplifies the message Filo so vividly captured. A student waving an American
flag at armed National Guardsmen was pictured beneath the photo of the girl, underscoring the political
magnitude of the event—a reminder of why such a tragedy occurred. Politics had broken down.
23
E.J. Dionne, Jr. Why Americans Hate Politics (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991) 41.
24
Charlotte Bunch, “A Broom of One’s Own: Notes on Women’s Liberation Program since the motive
Magazine issue” in Sara M. Evans, Personal Politics: The Roots of Women’s Liberation in the Civil Rights
Movement and the New Left
(New York: Vintage Books, 1979) 212.


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