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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  widespread poverty dominated visual discourse. Photography, as Vicki Goldberg observed, proved to have a “swifter and more succinct impact than words, an impact that is instantaneous, visceral and intense.” 7 Employed in tandem with progressive rhetoric, photographs created an even more vivid representation of deplorable social circumstances. Enabling Americans to envision How the Other Half Lives[d], the social documentary “appropriated photographic technology to a central and privileged place within its rhetoric of immediacy and truth.” 8 The work of the muckrakers set a precedent for the transformation to occur within visual imagery throughout the post-World War II period. In addition to alerting the American populace to social corruption and citizens’ civic responsibilities in ameliorating it, photographs appealed to an emerging mass consumer culture, as Kodak’s slogan “You press the button, we do the rest,” 9 intimated. Photographs did not discriminate by class, as some have argued newspaper texts do. Visuals catered to an audience virtually unlimited in scope. Methods The transformation in the manner in which photography was utilized by newspapers in the post- World War II period, while offering a corollary to changes motivated by Progressive efforts, nonetheless reveals the effects of trends transpiring both internal and external to the news organization at the time. Providing a marketable commodity, the media purported images of `reality’ to the public. This admittedly subjective representation revealed the prevalence of what Daniel Boorstin termed `pseudo- events’--premeditated, deliberate and synthetic images, ambiguously designed to incite popular interest. 10 Fashioning a reality intended to appeal to an emerging “mass” and declining “folk” culture, print media 6 John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988) 3. 7 Vicki Goldberg, The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed our Lives (New York: Abbeville Press, 1991) 7. 8 Tagg 8. 9 Goldberg 14. 10 For additional information on `the image,’ see Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (New York: Atheneum, 1977).

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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background image
widespread poverty dominated visual discourse.
Photography, as Vicki Goldberg observed, proved to have a “swifter and more succinct impact
than words, an impact that is instantaneous, visceral and intense.”
7
Employed in tandem with
progressive rhetoric, photographs created an even more vivid representation of deplorable social
circumstances. Enabling Americans to envision How the Other Half Lives[d], the social documentary
“appropriated photographic technology to a central and privileged place within its rhetoric of immediacy
and truth.”
8
The work of the muckrakers set a precedent for the transformation to occur within visual
imagery throughout the post-World War II period.
In addition to alerting the American populace to social corruption and citizens’ civic
responsibilities in ameliorating it, photographs appealed to an emerging mass consumer culture, as
Kodak’s slogan “You press the button, we do the rest,”
9
intimated. Photographs did not discriminate by
class, as some have argued newspaper texts do. Visuals catered to an audience virtually unlimited in
scope.
Methods
The transformation in the manner in which photography was utilized by newspapers in the post-
World War II period, while offering a corollary to changes motivated by Progressive efforts, nonetheless
reveals the effects of trends transpiring both internal and external to the news organization at the time.
Providing a marketable commodity, the media purported images of `reality’ to the public. This
admittedly subjective representation revealed the prevalence of what Daniel Boorstin termed `pseudo-
events’--premeditated, deliberate and synthetic images, ambiguously designed to incite popular interest.
10
Fashioning a reality intended to appeal to an emerging “mass” and declining “folk” culture, print media
6
John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Amherst: University of
Massachusetts Press, 1988) 3.
7
Vicki Goldberg, The Power of Photography: How Photographs Changed our Lives (New York: Abbeville Press,
1991) 7.
8
Tagg 8.
9
Goldberg 14.
10
For additional information on `the image,’ see Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in
America (New York: Atheneum, 1977).


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