HBC has used photographs and other images as historical documents. While photographs can be very useful historical documents there are also subject to misuse and misunderstanding. Here no images are more prone to misunderstanding than images of war, especially casulaties of war. Sone of the earliest images of mankind are of hunting. Some of the earliest sophisticated images deal with the glories of rulars and their victories in war. The depiction of the victims of war is a much more recent historical phenomena. The interpretation of these images is often a matter of great controversy. This is beause one side used these images to show the evil nature of the other side. The other side explains these images a regretable incident in the war. All too often, the public's reactin will be affected by who the victims are. An image of a dead child will horrify most observers. Add a caption explaing that the child is an Isreali or a Paletinian and many people's reaction will be significantly altered.
HBC has used photographs and other images as primary historical documents. Our site in facts relies on photographs as one of our principal sources of information. Photographs are in fact primary sources. A reader wrote us asking what are sources were for a page she was using. We had to explain that the photographs on the page were primary sources. We view each image we have posted as a small primary source. Of course there are many other important sources, but it is important to understand that not all primary sources are written documents. The photograph is still an under utilized source. This will certainly change as digital phitography has in the 21st century become uniquitous. Older photograohic images, however, should not be ignored. This is especuallu true when assessing fashion, but these older images also have historical nd sociological value. Of course , photographs hace to be scrutinized just as written documents have to be evaluated.
While photographs can be very useful historical documents there are also subject to misuse and misunderstanding. This may seem a little surprising in that unlike a painting, a photograph is an exact replication of reality--or so it would seam. After all you would think that a process that produces an image by technically capturing light that has fallen on an event or individual. This eliminates some of the subjectivity od an artist or illustrator. Actually a photographer in effects edits any scene by what he chooses to focus on and the angle he shoots. Photographs like paintings or documents are created by human agency and photographers like artists and historians seek to influence the viewervor reader. This is not necesarily wrong if it is done openly and honestly. A photograph does not present the subject ‘as it was’, but as the photographer sees it. A photographer can present information dishonestly. Photographers and news agencies can for example present images of the suffering of one side without showing that of the other side or by varying sequences. In this case historical images are transformed into propaganda. In addition, a photographer can stage a scene or edit again when he prints an image. Of course digital imaging offers inumerable possibilities for altering an image. This was explified in 2003 when it was learned that a Los Angeles Time photographer altered an image that had been used on the front page. There were also well publicized examples from the Isreali-Palestinisn conflict.
Here no images are more prone to misunderstanding than images of war, especially casulaties of war. Sone of the earliest images of mankind are of hunting. Some of the earliest sophisticated images deal with the glories of rulars and their victories in war.
The depiction of the victims of war is a much more recent historical phenomena. Victims were depicted in aincient sculptures and wall paintings. We notice them in Egyption temples and Roman ruins such as Trajin's clolumns. The dead soldiers as slaves brought back as war booty were used to glorify ancirnt rulars. We also notice captives in Mayan tomb paintings with same purpose.
Depicting victims as a sign of outrage is very recent phenomenon.
Jacques Callot in 1633 did a series of etching to show the attrocities by French soldiers on civlians in Lorraine.
Hans Ulrich Franck in 1643 composed ethchings of soldiers killing German peasants during the incredivle brutal Thirty Years War which devestated Germany.
Perhaps the most celebrated early artist to address the plight of victims was Spain's Francosco Goya. Goya's paintings such a "The ???" and "The Disatersof War". a collection of 83 etchings, depicted thge incredible brutality of the Napoleonic War's Penonsula Campaign. They focused on the killing of civilians by the Spanish French Army. The guerillas were also brutal when they were able to seize French soldiers or cooperating Spanizh.,
The photographic images that appeared in the 19th century were very different than the art worlk that had shon victims. The art work were a synthssis of the artist's view. It was not evidence of actyal incidents. Given the time needed to produce art, it often appeared years after the events depicted. Thus not only of its subjective nature, but because of the time delay, such art work was not real evudence, nor could it be used to effective promote political action aimed at the events depicted. [Sontag Regarding.]
The interpretation of these images is often a matter of great controversy. This is beause one side used these images to show the evil nature of the other side. The other side explains these images a regretable incident in the war. All too often, the public's reactin will be affected by who the victims are. An image of a dead child will horrify most observers. Add a caption explaing that the child is an Isreali or a Paletinian and many people's reaction will be significantly altered.
HBC in its various pages has primarily used studio portraits and, after the turn of the 20th century, snap shots to chronicle trends in boy's fashions. Photographs like art, however, can engender emotional responses and influence public opinion. HBC can think of several photographs of boys which not only chronicled clothing trends, but had a significant impact on contemporary and historical opinion. Several photographs come immediately to mind. Some of these photographs include several WPA depression era photograhs--I have not yet picked one (1930s), the Jewish boy in the Warsaw ghetto (1943), John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father's casket (1963), the British boy being patted by Sadam Husein (1980), and Karavan Karasic? with a Bosnian
boy outside Sebernecia (199?). Please let HBC know if you have a photograph which should be added to this list.
Forensic photography is often referred to as forensic imaging or crime scene photography. Ot is defined as the art of producing an accurate reproduction of a crime or accident scene thst can be used to investigate and evrntually procecute the indviduals responsible. In other words forensics is generally as employing science to solve crimes. Historians have for years used imagery, often art work in their work. For the most part such imagery id often limited because of the fragility of the objects. Often they are deliberately destroyed, such as the modern rampage of Islamic fundamentalists thorogh art galleries and museums. And art, especially fine art, is expensive to produce which limits production. This all changed in the mid-19th century. Suddently you have millions of images show casing the lives of not only the rich and famous, but every-day people going about their lives. And the csreful exmination of these images, forensic methods, can reveal all kinds of details about the peopleand famikies pictured. As time progressed we get more and more images of increasingly high quality, eventually motion pictiures and color images. Interestingly some of the highest quality images, if they survided, were taken during the 1860s-90s before the development of moern cameras. This is because photographers used huge plates, much larger than pre digital negatives, and lrge lenes. These created images with extrodiarly high resolutioin thzn can produce high detail even for a small portion if the negative.
Sontag, Susan. On Photography.
Sontag, Susan. Regarding the Pain of Others.
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