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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  York. I visualize eight column streamers in the largest type the composing rooms could offer…Possibly some very advanced thinkers among the editors have used two or three previous columns at the bottom of the page to print the first wirephoto showing the tallest building in ruins. And maybe two or three of the hundreds who have that service at their command have cut the head down to a modest one line of 96 point reading, `FIRST PICTURE OF EMPIRE STATE IN RUINS,’ and smashed the shot for the rest of the page. What sheets, proportionately, will sell the most papers? The ones with the modest little two or three column cut at the bottom? Don’t be silly!” 37 Besides this eerie foreshadowing of the tragic events of September 11, White underscored several critical elements of photography—elements that have proven truths throughout the past three months. Crisis generates the desire for the visual. The public wants to see the events that have occurred. To observe catastrophe is more real than to read another’s description of it. Thus, it is the visual that commands the immediate attention of the public. Again, this is not to diminish the importance of text. History has revealed that photographs reinforce the power of the written word. When employed in tandem with rhetoric, journalism can be even more potent. Photographs are visual manifestations of material culture, recording events, people, and movements, leaving an indelible mark upon the collective memory of the public. Americans can always return to the images of Kennedy’s funeral or the Kent State tragedy and recall the events of the past. While photography may not be wholly objective in its portrayal of subject matter, it nonetheless has played an integral role in consciousness-raising throughout American history. As this study has shown, the Times’s transformation in photographic content mirrored events transpiring throughout the various realms of American life in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1960s, when new technologies conducive to depicting more socially and culturally oriented images were introduced to photojournalists, `adversary culture’ emerged, and the television became a viable medium of information, the `social’ and `cultural’ tended to eclipse what I have termed popular politics. By the 1970s, when each of these distinct elements had rooted themselves in American society and culture, less of a distinctive pattern can be exacted from this data. Visual imagery revealed the uncertainty and inconsistency of American culture. What precisely constituted the political, an historically discrete entity, was nebulous. It had been transmuted. 37 White 310.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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York. I visualize eight column streamers in the largest type the composing rooms could
offer…Possibly some very advanced thinkers among the editors have used two or three
previous columns at the bottom of the page to print the first wirephoto showing the
tallest building in ruins. And maybe two or three of the hundreds who have that service
at their command have cut the head down to a modest one line of 96 point reading,
`FIRST PICTURE OF EMPIRE STATE IN RUINS,’ and smashed the shot for the rest of
the page. What sheets, proportionately, will sell the most papers? The ones with the
modest little two or three column cut at the bottom? Don’t be silly!”
37
Besides this eerie foreshadowing of the tragic events of September 11, White underscored several critical
elements of photography—elements that have proven truths throughout the past three months. Crisis
generates the desire for the visual. The public wants to see the events that have occurred. To observe
catastrophe is more real than to read another’s description of it. Thus, it is the visual that commands the
immediate attention of the public. Again, this is not to diminish the importance of text. History has
revealed that photographs reinforce the power of the written word. When employed in tandem with
rhetoric, journalism can be even more potent.
Photographs are visual manifestations of material culture, recording events, people, and
movements, leaving an indelible mark upon the collective memory of the public. Americans can always
return to the images of Kennedy’s funeral or the Kent State tragedy and recall the events of the past.
While photography may not be wholly objective in its portrayal of subject matter, it nonetheless has
played an integral role in consciousness-raising throughout American history.
As this study has shown, the Times’s transformation in photographic content mirrored events
transpiring throughout the various realms of American life in the 1960s and 1970s. During the 1960s,
when new technologies conducive to depicting more socially and culturally oriented images were
introduced to photojournalists, `adversary culture’ emerged, and the television became a viable medium
of information, the `social’ and `cultural’ tended to eclipse what I have termed popular politics. By the
1970s, when each of these distinct elements had rooted themselves in American society and culture, less
of a distinctive pattern can be exacted from this data. Visual imagery revealed the uncertainty and
inconsistency of American culture. What precisely constituted the political, an historically discrete entity,
was nebulous. It had been transmuted.
37
White 310.


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