The Cruel Radiance

The Cruel Radiance

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In The Cruel Radiance, Susie Linfield challenges the idea that photographs of political violence exploit their subjects and pander to the voyeuristic tendencies of their viewers. Instead she argues passionately that looking at such imagesa€”and learning to see the people in thema€”is an ethically and politically necessary act that connects us to our modern history of violence and probes the human capacity for cruelty. Grappling with critics from Walter Benjamin and Bertolt Brecht to Susan Sontag and the postmodernsa€”and analyzing photographs from such events as the Holocaust, Chinaa€™s Cultural Revolution, and recent terrorist actsa€”Linfield explores the complex connection between photojournalism and the rise of human rights ideals. In the booka€™s concluding section, she examines the indispensable work of Robert Capa, James Nachtwey, and Gilles Peress and asks how photography should respond to the increasingly nihilistic trajectory of modern warfare. A bracing and unsettling book, The Cruel Radiance convincingly demonstrates that if we hope to alleviate political violence, we must first truly understand ita€”and to do that, we must begin to look.Citing video games and hazing rituals, Sontag charged that a€œAmerica has become a country in which the fantasies and the practice of ... Sontag herself had never been particularly attracted to fun, and in this essay one could hear the old, censorious echo of the Frankfurt School ... cultural shield, dipping into pop culture at will but guarding myself against much that I consider ugly, stupid, or too violent.

Title:The Cruel Radiance
Author:Susie Linfield
Publisher:University of Chicago Press - 2011-05-27


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