The Atlantic on the historical epochs of photo-journalism
Following Baudelaire's precedent, Depression-era thinkers of all political stripes suspected them. Douglas Brinkley writes in his new biography of Life magazine's founder, Henry Luce, The Publisher:
To the socialist Left, the magazines were tools of the bourgeoisie, reinforcing a middle-class view of the world and luring the proletariat into its culture. To intellectual critics of popular culture, among them the philosopher Martin Heidegger, who worte pessimistically in 1938 that "the fundamental event of the modern age is the conquest of the world as picture"), the photo magazines were vehicles by which "readers" became "lookers," and "understanding" became simply "seeing."Now issues of the same illustrated magazines are displayed as priceless cultural relics in exhibitions like the Museum of Modern Art's show on Henri Cartier-Bresson, now closing, even if the photographer's print rather than the (sometimes cropped) editor's halftone is their real object.