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Refocusing America: American Society Through the Camera's Lens, 1945-2000
Unformatted Document Text:  recorded within this subdivision of visual imagery. Subjects dealing with the internal structure of the United States government and the elements relating to it were the essence of this category. The social and cultural categories, evaluated jointly in this study, reflect issues pertaining more directly to human interests—stories comprising what was referred to previously as soft news. The social categorization includes crime-related images, as well as photographs of strikes, traffic and mass transit, natural disasters in addition to portraits of notable persons. The deaths of the distinguished poets e.e. cummings and T.S. Eliot were commemorated with portraits placed adjacent to articles announcing their passing. Photographs of the aftermath of a fire on the Hudson River as well as traffic in Times Square on New Year’s Day were included in this grouping. The culture category encompasses stories relating to sports, the arts, religion, science, style, and tourism. The topics that fall within this category, dubbed `primary activities by political scientist Robert Dahl, “…involving food, sex, love, family, work, play, shelter, comfort, friendship, social esteem and the like,’” 12 are extremely diverse. Images of Pope Paul VI congratulating bishops, Mark Spitz’s 7 th Olympic medal, and photographs of Jupiter were all accounted for in this category. While I have tried to remain as objective as possible in my categorization of photographs, I use the term `objective’ to imply these groupings are not without flaw. Just as objectivity is a myth, a faultless system of classification is as well. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of understanding visual images is trying to consistently place them within a clearly defined category. Distinctions between categories are often nebulous, and as a result subjective decisions need to be made. While I have encountered studies classifying photographs by their association with `spot’ news, features, sports action, personalities and the like, none of these groupings makes any specific qualification as to the subjects of these groups. An image of the president could fit within any number of these classificatory headings. I would be no better off from where I began. Results 12 Michael Schudson, The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (New York: Free Press, 1998) 241.

Authors: Maurantonio, Nicole.
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background image
recorded within this subdivision of visual imagery. Subjects dealing with the internal structure of the
United States government and the elements relating to it were the essence of this category.
The social and cultural categories, evaluated jointly in this study, reflect issues pertaining more
directly to human interests—stories comprising what was referred to previously as soft news. The social
categorization includes crime-related images, as well as photographs of strikes, traffic and mass transit,
natural disasters in addition to portraits of notable persons. The deaths of the distinguished poets e.e.
cummings and T.S. Eliot were commemorated with portraits placed adjacent to articles announcing their
passing. Photographs of the aftermath of a fire on the Hudson River as well as traffic in Times Square on
New Year’s Day were included in this grouping.
The culture category encompasses stories relating to sports, the arts, religion, science, style, and
tourism. The topics that fall within this category, dubbed `primary activities by political scientist Robert
Dahl, “…involving food, sex, love, family, work, play, shelter, comfort, friendship, social esteem and the
like,’”
12
are extremely diverse. Images of Pope Paul VI congratulating bishops, Mark Spitz’s 7
th
Olympic
medal, and photographs of Jupiter were all accounted for in this category.
While I have tried to remain as objective as possible in my categorization of photographs, I use
the term `objective’ to imply these groupings are not without flaw. Just as objectivity is a myth, a
faultless system of classification is as well. Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of understanding
visual images is trying to consistently place them within a clearly defined category. Distinctions between
categories are often nebulous, and as a result subjective decisions need to be made. While I have
encountered studies classifying photographs by their association with `spot’ news, features, sports action,
personalities and the like, none of these groupings makes any specific qualification as to the subjects of
these groups. An image of the president could fit within any number of these classificatory headings. I
would be no better off from where I began.
Results
12
Michael Schudson, The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life (New York: Free Press, 1998) 241.


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