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Journal Article

Review: Why Photography Matters to the Theory of History: Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz by Georges Didi-Huberman; Shane B. Lillis

Reviewed Works: Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz by Georges Didi-Huberman, Shane B. Lillis; Why Photography Matters as Art as Never Before by Michael Fried
Review by: Michael S. Roth
History and Theory
Vol. 49, No. 1 (Feb., 2010), pp. 90-103
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25621454
Page Count: 14
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Why Photography Matters to the Theory of History
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Abstract

Georges Didi-Huberman's study is concerned with epistemological and ethical questions that arise from visual representations of the Shoah, while Michael Fried's is concerned with the ontological possibilities explored by contemporary art photography. The books have two things in common: an argument against postmodern skepticism, and an insistence that photography has become a field in which questions of history, truth, and authenticity are being explored with particular acuity. Rather than reject even the possibility that photographs have something to tell us about the Shoah, Didi-Huberman shows that they can offer important insights into the difficulties and the possibilities of apprehending some aspects of the past. Fried shows that contemporary photographic work has taken on the ambitions of high modernism by accepting the challenge of "to-be-seenness." Photography as a "historical practice" does not escape from the difficulties of evidence and of the "constructed" nature of historical understanding; photography functions neither as a pure trace of the past, nor as a mere invitation to spectacle.

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