Photography matters, writes Jerry Thompson, because of how it works—not only as an artistic medium but also as a way of knowing. With this provocative observation, Thompson begins a wide-ranging and lucid meditation on why photography is unique among the picture-making arts. He constructs an argument that moves with natural logic from Thomas Pynchon (and why we read him for his vision and not his command of miscellaneous facts) to Jonathan Swift to Plato to Emily Dickinson (who wrote “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”) to detailed readings of photographs by Eugène Atget, Garry Winogrand, Marcia Due, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank. Forcefully and persuasively, he argues for photography as a medium whose business is not constructing fantasies pleasing to the eye or imagination, but describing the world in the toughest and deepest way.
One of the most highly regarded books of its kind, On Photography first appeared in 1977 and is described by its author as "a progress of essays about the meaning and career of photographs." It begins with the famous "In Plato's Cave"essay, then offers five other prose meditations on this topic, and concludes with a fascinating and far-reaching "Brief Anthology of Quotations."
This path-breaking book explores how solidarity towards vulnerable others is performed in our media environment. It argues that stories where famine is described through our own experience of dieting or or where solidarity with Africa translates into wearing a cool armband tell us about much more than the cause that they attempt to communicate. They tell us something about the ways in which we imagine the world outside ourselves.
By showing historical change in Amnesty International and Oxfam appeals, in the Live Aid and Live 8 concerts, in the advocacy of Audrey Hepburn and Angelina Jolie as well as in earthquake news on the BBC, this far-reaching book shows how solidarity has today come to be not about conviction but choice, not vision but lifestyle, not others but ourselves – turning us into the ironic spectators of other people’s suffering.
In this lively intellectual history of the political Left, cultural critic Susie Linfield investigates how eight prominent twentieth-century intellectuals struggled with the philosophy of Zionism, and then with Israel and its conflicts with the Arab world. Constructed as a series of interrelated portraits that combine the personal and the political, the book includes philosophers, historians, journalists, and activists such as Hannah Arendt, Arthur Koestler, I. F. Stone, and Noam Chomsky. In their engagement with Zionism, these influential thinkers also wrestled with the twentieth century’s most crucial political dilemmas: socialism, nationalism, democracy, colonialism, terrorism, and anti-Semitism. In other words, in probing Zionism, they confronted the very nature of modernity and the often catastrophic histories of our time. By examining these leftist intellectuals, Linfield also seeks to understand how the contemporary Left has become focused on anti-Zionism and how Israel itself has moved rightward.