This article examines the discourse and practice of photography enacted in Weimar Germany's modernist photobook as a testing ground for the medium's narrative potential. This project involved the attempt to stake out an aesthetics that exploited photography's aptitude for exact reproduction while uncoupling it from a claim to truthfulness. In tracing the reflection of key theorists of the visual (Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, László Moholy-Nagy), McBride demonstrates how a montage aesthetics was key to harnessing the medium's exactness and evidentiary potential without conflating exactitude with truth. Within this discursive framework, photography's truthfulness became located in the rhetorical quality of montage narratives rather than in realism. This move helped overcome established conceptual terms drawn from the tradition of painting, such as verisimilitude and illusionism. The final section demonstrates the potential of this montage aesthetics by analyzing the scrapbook assembled by the montage artist Hannah Höch around 1933–34. Höch's Album is examined as a photobook of sorts that enjoins resemblance (the staple of a traditional aesthetics of verisimilitude) to produce an active mode of seeing.
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Research Article| February 01 2012
Patrizia McBride; Narrative Resemblance: The Production of Truth in the Modernist Photobook of Weimar Germany. New German Critique 1 February 2012; 39 (1 (115)): 169–197. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0094033X-1434542
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