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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  This analysis begins in January 1945, a time when the United States was engaged in World War II. While it may be argued that the Times’s invariable emphasis during this period was upon wartime activity, this contention does not detract in any way from the transformation I have witnessed. Media coverage of American involvement in the war rather reinforces my central thesis—that visual imagery serves as a reflection of prominent issues and events preoccupying American society. There are other advantages to beginning this study in the mid-1940s. Serving as a springboard for comparison, the 1940s exhibit none of the factors that I posit contributed to the Times’s shift in photographic content. The television had yet to exert its influence over the media writ large. Technological developments producing clearer images and faster reproduction times had yet to be introduced to photojournalists. I continue this study through December 2000, tracing the course of graphic usage throughout the remainder of the twentieth century. Observing the front page of the first Tuesday of every month between 1945 and 2000, I grouped each visual, which could have assumed the form of a photograph, map, illustration, or diagram, into one of four categories: international, popular politics, social, and cultural. The categorization of photographs is a reflection of neither the diction of the caption nor the headline placed above the image. Solely image content, who or what was being depicted, was taken into account. The international category includes maps of foreign nations as well as photographs pertaining to international figures, meetings of worldwide organizations such as NATO or the UN, wars (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam most specifically during this period), and domestic politicians’ interactions with international figures. A photograph of protests in South Vietnam or Soviet tanks in Cuba would thus fall within this category. “Popular politics,” a phrase introduced by Michael McGerr in his analysis of declining voter turnout throughout the early twentieth century, implies politics in its most fundamental form— characterized by political parades, civic enthusiasm, entertainment, and extraordinarily high levels of voter participation. Issues that engaged all branches of the U.S. government as well as political parties are therefore subsumed within `popular politics.’ Photographs of the president, presidential addresses, members of the legislative and judiciary branches, both local and national, and government officials were

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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This analysis begins in January 1945, a time when the United States was engaged in World War
II. While it may be argued that the Times’s invariable emphasis during this period was upon wartime
activity, this contention does not detract in any way from the transformation I have witnessed. Media
coverage of American involvement in the war rather reinforces my central thesis—that visual imagery
serves as a reflection of prominent issues and events preoccupying American society.
There are other advantages to beginning this study in the mid-1940s. Serving as a springboard
for comparison, the 1940s exhibit none of the factors that I posit contributed to the Times’s shift in
photographic content. The television had yet to exert its influence over the media writ large.
Technological developments producing clearer images and faster reproduction times had yet to be
introduced to photojournalists. I continue this study through December 2000, tracing the course of
graphic usage throughout the remainder of the twentieth century.
Observing the front page of the first Tuesday of every month between 1945 and 2000, I grouped
each visual, which could have assumed the form of a photograph, map, illustration, or diagram, into one
of four categories: international, popular politics, social, and cultural. The categorization of photographs
is a reflection of neither the diction of the caption nor the headline placed above the image. Solely image
content, who or what was being depicted, was taken into account.
The international category includes maps of foreign nations as well as photographs pertaining to
international figures, meetings of worldwide organizations such as NATO or the UN, wars (World War
II, Korea, and Vietnam most specifically during this period), and domestic politicians’ interactions with
international figures. A photograph of protests in South Vietnam or Soviet tanks in Cuba would thus fall
within this category.
“Popular politics,” a phrase introduced by Michael McGerr in his analysis of declining voter
turnout throughout the early twentieth century, implies politics in its most fundamental form—
characterized by political parades, civic enthusiasm, entertainment, and extraordinarily high levels of
voter participation. Issues that engaged all branches of the U.S. government as well as political parties are
therefore subsumed within `popular politics.’ Photographs of the president, presidential addresses,
members of the legislative and judiciary branches, both local and national, and government officials were


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