With the onset and proliferation of today's twenty-four-hour mass media culture, war in particular has become—and will continue to be—very photogenic. But can we rely on what we see? What is missing from that message? Strictly speaking, Marxist thinkers and critics have been skeptical of images and their ability to faithfully convey the realities of class, power, and truth; and to a certain extent, Bertolt Brecht was no different. However, such a blanket statement does not fully capture the often tenuous working relationship that Brecht and photography share. This statement prompts many questions: Does photography uncover truth or cover up societal relations? How does Brecht employ photographs to expose contradictions? Can we continue to read contemporary images of war as Brecht sought to read/use them more than fifty years ago in his works? This essay will briefly outline how Brecht juxtaposed appropriated press photographs and poetic commentary to help us rethink our approach to history, war, and visual representation and will then argue for photography's continued critical relevance to our current relationship with and assessment of the causes and effects of global conflict.
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Kristopher Imbrigotta; History and the Challenge of Photography in Bertolt Brecht's Kriegsfibel. Radical History Review 1 January 2010; 2010 (106): 27–45. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01636545-2009-019
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