About to Die: How News Images Move the Public

About to Die: How News Images Move the Public

About to Die: How News Images Move the Public

About to Die: How News Images Move the Public

Synopsis

Due to its ability to freeze a moment in time, the photo is a uniquely powerful device for ordering and understanding the world. But when an image depicts complex, ambiguous, or controversial events--terrorist attacks, wars, political assassinations--its ability to influence perception can prove deeply unsettling. Are we really seeing the world "as it is" or is the image a fabrication or projection? How do a photo's content and form shape a viewer's impressions? What do such images contribute to historical memory? About to Die focuses on one emotionally charged category of news photograph--depictions of individuals who are facing imminent death--as a prism for addressing such vital questions. Tracking events as wide-ranging as the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, and 9/11, Barbie Zelizer demonstrates that modes of journalistic depiction and the power of the image are immense cultural forces that are still far from understood. Through a survey of a century of photojournalism, including close analysis of over sixty photos, About to Die provides a framework and vocabulary for understanding the news imagery that so profoundly shapes our view of the world.

Excerpt

What are news images for? Still photos of a small John Kennedy Jr. saluting his father’s coffin may have helped a grieving American public accept the death of its president in much the same way as a flag raising on Iwo Jima may have reduced the complicated reality of World War II to a symbolic gesture of victory. But neither example makes clear what equips an image to deliver the news and what makes some images work better than others, either on their initial display or in their recycling across time and space. Instead, multiple questions surface about these “flashbulb memories”: Under which conditions does an image work most powerfully? What kind of information does one need to understand an image and how much information is necessary? Who fosters an image’s understanding? How does this impact public response to the news?

These questions motivate this book. As still photographs, videos, film, and digital images fill a growing and increasingly diverse print, broadcast, cable, and digital landscape, a fuller understanding of news images becomes critical. Because many images reflect unsettled public events—the difficult and often contested planned violence, torture, terrorism, natural disaster, war, famine, crime, epidemic, and political assassinations at the core of today’s geopolitical environment—their consideration can help clarify how the public forms sentiments about the larger world. It can also elucidate under which conditions images promote broader political agendas and what happens to a healthy body politic when images reduce complex issues and circumstances to memorable but simplistic visual frames.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.