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Chapter 4 (part 3)

Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 2 months ago

Comments and Discussion:

Add comments, notes and translations here.

 

 

Landscapes presented: cityscapes, skyscrapers, aerial perspectives, nature's destructive powers.

Images represent incidents as viewed by a citizen not directly involved but paying close attnetion at a distance.

 

 

Often, in police's legal investigations, pictures help the lawyer to indentify the proofs that incriminate the murderers.

 

 

Portrait's fixity: the essence, the distilled character of the personage.

 

CARTOONS-emphasize person and didn't shift from personage to emotional person-they reamained focused on the realm of satire.

A cartoon is a preliminary sketch similar in size to the work, such as a fresco, that is to be copied from it.

 

A cartoon-"big paper"- is a full-size drawing made on paper as a study for a further artwork, such as a painting or tapestry. Cartoons were typically used in the production of frescoes, to accurately link the component parts of the composition when painted onto plaster over a series of days. Such cartoons often have pinpricks where the outline of the design has been picked out in the plaster. Cartoons by painters such as Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci are highly prized in their own right.

 

Because of the stylistic similarities between comic strips and early animated movies, "cartoon" came to refer to animation, and this is the sense in which "cartoon" is most commonly used today. These are usually shown on television or in cinemas and are created by showing illustrated images in rapid succession to give the impression of movement. In this meaning, the word cartoon is sometimes shortened to toon.

 

An animated cartoon is a moving picture generated by photographing drawings frame-by-frame, as opposed to a normal movie, which is produced by shooting 24 frames a second of actual moving persons or objects.

 

Kevin: Be sure to cite any sources you quote from. The above definitions seem to be from an authoritative (published) source -- if so, please indicate which and where (source and location of any quoted passages within in)?

 

 

DURING THE XX CENTURY,HOW HUMAN PERCEPTION IS CHANGED?

While I was reading the chapter, this question came to my mind.

(Now I write in Italian, because, if not, tomorrow morning I'll be still here..)

Ho iniziato a pensare ai miei nonni, che sono nati ed hanno vissuto in un paesino di 1000 abitanti, senza ovviamente avere molta possibilità di spostarsi e di vedere il mondo. Perciò mi sono chiesta (domanda retorica) quanto può essere stata diversa la loro percezione di fronte alle foto pubblicate nelle prime decadi del 900 rispetto alla nostra, ASSUEFATTI ormai da film e foto "spaventosi", reali o fittizzi che siano.

Mi immagino la curiosità negli occhi di mio nonno di fronte magari a foto di luoghi lontani, diversissimi dalle campagne vercellesi, o lo stupore di mia nonna nell'ammirare i vestiti delle ricche signore di Milano, certamente molto diversi dai suoi. E poi penso a noi, tutti ormai "omologati" e forse non più capaci di commuoverci davvero di fronte a foto terribili, di bambini malati, uomini sfigurati e cadaveri gettati per strada. E questo perchè non abbiamo più paura della follia umana, ne rimaniamo sorpresi, ma, vuoi che ormai la malvagità ci viene somministrata a grandi dosi ogni giorno, e perciò abbiamo sviluppato una "legittima difesa", vuoi perchè ormai c'è indifferenza nei confronti dell'umanità, possiamo provare dispiacere al momento, ma poi ci si dimentica di certe crudeltà solo perchè "intanto sono lontane dal nostro ambiente". Credo proprio che lo sguardo ingenuo dei nostri avi li aiutasse a percepire molto più profondamente la loro attualità e a fare tesoro delle notizie, belle o brutte che fossero. So che potrete criticare molto queste mie riflessioni, perchè credo che per molti sia difficile ammettere certe realrà scomode e di cui dovremmo vergognarci, ma il mio non vuole essere un attacco, se non forse nei confronti di questo sistema sempre più simile a quello raccontato (o profetizzato?)da Orwell ne "Il mondo nuovo" o in "1984", bensì una presa di coscienza che, seppure sia molto scomoda, rigetta ogni ipocrisia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The civic gaze

The evolving coverage of affairs like boat races indicates a more general shift in the way events were depicted. The change seems rooted in a reformulation of the subject position of the reader or viewer. Initially subjectivity takes the position of spectator. That is, images represent incidents as viewed by a citizen not directly involved but paying close attention at a distance. These most assuredly are not ordinary or common viewers but privileged ones, who look from among the ranks of better society upon (and who at times look down on their social inferiors in the middle ground separating them from) the great men and events being depicted (see, for e.g., Harper's, July 6, 1861, 426). Most often the faces clearly visible are of social peers, as examples from the coverage of the Civil War demonstrate. In the “Grand Review of General McDowell's Corps d'Armee, etc.,” the soldiers stand in an ordered mass receding into deep perspective, while leaders occupy the central ground on horseback (Harper's, July 6, 1861, 424-5). The largest figures are the well-dressed onlookers in casual poses, some of them in admiring clutches around military officers, their faces turned toward the reader.

 

 

This privileged subjectivity was reinforced by the technique of composition. Sketch artists composed images, acting like correspondents. They gathered visual impressions as they walked around an event, then used them to construct a composite scene. This scene would compend the various detailed images that the artist had sketched in such perambulations. In the case of depictions of groups of important men - for instance, the meeting of the U.S. Senate (described previously) - recognizable faces seem to float on a flat surface of bodies and architectural details. Another example of this style of drawing (Figure 4.5), is a Leslie's two-page illustration of Garfield's inaugural ball (March 19, 1881, 52-3).

 

 

This positioning of the subject as privileged and perambulatory was well suited to narrative illustration. In their depictions of events, the illustrated newspapers often combined sketches that were temporally adjacent into one illustration, allowing for the telescoping of sequential occurrences into a single, supposedly instantaneous depiction. Leslie's depicted Garfield's shooting, for instance, in a two-page illustration (Figure 4.6) that shows the look of surprise on Garfield's face as the bullet hit and before he collapsed, the look of concern on the faces of bystanders, and the apprehension of the assailant - a temporal range that would have covered about a minute of actual time and could never have been captured by a camera (July 16, 1881, 332-3). This drawing was based on the sketch artists' interviews with people on the scene; the journalists themselves had not been present but arrived two hours after the shooting.

 

 

The position of subjectivity changed quite dramatically. By the turn of the century, subjectivity floats in the air around great events - a fly on the wall, not connected to any identifiable social or political subject. The emphasis has moved from a public (being those with the franchise) to a more generic “public view” available at closer quarters, revealing emotion in the moment and emphasizing the human face and body frozen in action or reaction. When Leslie's illustrated McKinley's assassination, the age of the photograph had arrived. Although it published dozens of photographs of McKinley in action, and of other figures associated with the administration, plus a haunting portrait of the assassin, Leon Czolgosz, behind bars, Leslie's made no attempt to illustrate the shooting itself. The nearest thing, a shot of the scene of the shooting, used an X to mark the spot where the deed was done. The viewers of these photographs could experience an emotional response to the depictions of human moments, but they could no longer read the president as a monumental personage or the image as a story unfolding before them, the citizenry as public witnesses to grand spectacle.

from personage to person

 

Another dimension of the pictures shows the shift from personage to person best: the tenor or mood conveyed, most evidently in depictions of people. Initially, each leader occupies the picture plane as a “personage,” that is, as a relatively fixed set of traits that spring from social class, race, position of power, physiognomy, style of dress, and personality. Illustrated journals appeared when notions like animal magnetism and phrenology were current. The vogue of illustrated journalism coincided with the age of Darwin. Common sense at that time affirmed the importance of genetics and physiognomy to character, and even race reformers like Frederick Douglass assumed without much questioning that there was a science to the relationship between race and behavior. Ordinary people, then, were usually depicted according to physiognomic stereotypes (for an extended discussion, see Chapter 2 in Brown, 1993, and also Lalvani, 1996). Ordinary people, however, were rarely if ever the subjects of portraiture; they appeared in crowd scenes, usually sketched, or they appeared as the appendages of machines and buildings. Portraiture was reserved for leaders, and to depict them as personages meant something more than mere racial or physiognomic characteristics.

 

The president and other political leaders (and their wives) were personages who moved into view but did not change; their poses remained stiff and their gestures, if any, theatrical signs. Again, this mode of depiction is not divorced from technique - most portraits were engraved from photographs, which initially required that the subject maintain a fixed position for several seconds of exposure time. However, these facial expressions and poses were also stiff because the sitter and photographer arranged them so: more casual poses were technically feasible and were used for lesser persons. Equally fixed were the accompanying texts, verbal descriptions of character, presenting a record of the personage's career and an account of his or her values, allegiances, and characteristics. Fixity was the point - the image was supposed to present the essence, the distilled character, of the personage. Even in sketch art, the brow, nose, and mole of Lincoln are as set as the faces of buildings presented elsewhere, as can be seen in “Presidents Buchanan and Lincoln Entering the Senate Chamber, etc.” (Harper's, March 16, 1861, 165). Emotions are formulaic, like the masks of drama and comedy.

 

The fixity and materiality of the personage, even the character of great men, is quite alien to the photographic age. One index of this is a series of engravings following Garfield's death (Figure 4.7) - rather gruesome depictions of his corpse being autopsied and embalmed (Leslie's, Oct. 8, 1881, 85, and cf. 92). No matter how intrusive the camera eye may be said to have become, such illustrations - so intimate and seemingly unconnected to the public interest - are unthinkable today. They relate more closely to the medieval concept of power invested in the king's body. They could illustrate only something larger than any mere person. Indeed, ordinary people usually appeared relaxed and unposed (Figure 4.8), while in the same scene, men of substance took theatrical poses (Harper's, Oct. 28, 1871, cover).

 

 

By the turn of the 19th century, the mood has changed utterly, because now even great people are possessed of emotional lives that are fleeting and exist on a background that is no longer so clearly fixed and monumental. After his inauguration, Harper's shows McKinley in portrait (Figure 4.9), not as the grand personage as in previous presidents' portraits, but in a private moment of reading and reflection (March 9, 1901, 247). The era that produced Freud and Einstein, in which an invisible world came under the gaze of the new sciences, thus found cultural expression in the illustrated press.

 

 

Images meant for amusement or commentary did not follow the same course, remaining largely untouched by the realist ethos. The illustrations accompanying fiction consistently emphasized the characters in the stories as characters. Cartoons likewise always emphasized persons and did not shift from personage to emotional person, since they remained focused on the realm of satire. In Harper's, an 1861 cartoon called “A Dust-Storm in Broadway,” showing two figures in vignette (March 16, 176), does not differ that greatly from the vignette in an untitled cartoon from 1896 (July 19, 696).

the moment of change

 

The year 1890 may be taken as a watershed, a moment of change in the practice of illustrated journalism, in much the same way as it marked a change in periodical literature more generally. By 1890, a new genre of middle-class mass-market periodicals, led by Edward Bok's Ladies' Home Journal, had embraced a realist ethos, preparing the way for the great muckrake journals founded in the next decade. Photography was, of course, the picturing tool most congenial to the realism of the new periodical literature. The landmark moment in the marriage of social realism, journalism, and photography was the publication of Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives in 1890.

 

The illustrated journals were caught up in these changes. In Harper's in 1891, people appear for the first time arrested in motion (Figure 4.10), usually larger than the monuments near them (July 4, cover). Note the slicing off of the rider's horse in the foreground, in clear echo of the fleeting moment as originally visualized in the art of impressionism (such as Edgar Degas's A Carriage at the Races of 1873). By 1891, the stock regatta image is gone, replaced by an intimate view of people inside a boat watching the much-smaller regatta in the distance. People are also the center of imagery meant to cover the inauguration of a cold-storage facility. Interestingly enough, these changes occur just when type and image begin to have a different interplay, much more fluid, with type wrapping around images (an effect that occurred much earlier in advertising). In 1896 the images of battle scenes finally begin to show people in action; no longer does the coverage focus on the physical objects of war, as it did during the Civil War.

 

 

Travel coverage is an especially valuable indicator of the shift to realism. More than any other kind of reporting, it shows how “we” - the “we” of elite, civic society - see the world, and in the 1890s, what we usually see are faces, costume, and gestures from far away places. This focus on surface representation and fleeting subjectivity is true of the new sports photos as well, where, as we have noted, the human figure - sometimes in motion - has replaced the equipment as the center of pictorial attention. Even so, sketch art and drawings continued to be used, both for purposes of explanation and as a way of reporting with a point of view. In short, a change has taken place, and it is dramatic, but the old continues to coexist with the new.

 

Coverage of McKinley's swearing-in in 1901 is emblematic of this shift. The illustrations are realistic, and his portrait (described earlier) is not the standard monumental pose but a moment of contemplation. A new regime of typography has also taken over, with hierarchical clarity in type (gray text, heads made darker or larger to “pop” out, distinctive display type - all elements of the emerging modern style). Even the illustration of the president-elect passing through the Capitol, despite the old way of showing the building and the bodies with portrait-heads stuck on them, has people in motion (Harper's, March 9, 1901, 260-61). Although this is a drawing, it nevertheless clearly indicates that the goal of imagery has changed.

 

Meanwhile, in the photographs after 1890, we see an abandonment of the art of storytelling and a reversion to the lifeless portrait images of the 1860s. This had been the case throughout the introduction of photography in these publications. In Civil War engravings, those taken from photographs reproduce a very narrow range of grays, their interest lying primarily in their novelty, not in their content. In the Leslie's and Harper's coverage of the Great Chicago Fire, the stunning images are the sketches and drawings. One of these the editors tout (as quoted previously) - despite the presence of photographs on the adjacent page - for good reason. Consider two Harper's engravings in that week's issue (both entitled, “Chicago in Flames”), one from a sketch (well to the front of the magazine) and the other from a photograph (Oct. 28, 1871, 1004, 1012 top). In these examples, the photograph (Figure 4.11) emphasizes precise mechanically-rendered details, producing a composition in which the flames seem incidental. The sketch (Figure 4.12) pits the flames against the fleeing crowd in a vee composition that uses the buildings in silhouette as the wedge between the two living flows. If the photos were always the more artless of the illustrations, then the era of press photography marked a triumph of artlessness, as well as the demise of an earlier notion of picture-enhanced storytelling. It is evident that the producers of illustrated journals had misgivings about this adventure in naiveté.

 

 

Editors understandably questioned and delayed the use of images that were clearly inferior in their narrative range. In the 1896 Leslie's example cited previously, the Yale rowing competition photos are once again not as lucid as the drawings. The same is true in the coverage in Harper's of McKinley's death. The drawings capture candid moments, but the photographs have an unskillful, snapshot quality. There is a wonderful retrospective in the same issue (Sept. 21, 1901, 952-53), showing depictions of the deaths of Lincoln and Garfield. In the 1865 engravings, people appear as specks beneath the man-made ceiling and draperies as the casket lies in state, and again as mere texture covering the hills and beneath the trees at the burial. Even the more closely rendered citizens in the foregrounds are dwarfed by the monumental man-made and natural world. On the facing page, reproductions of the 1881 Garfield pictures are much the same, with arches, canopies, and hills dominating, but a candid quality is emerging, although tiny details are blurred in favor of focusing the scene. But the images of McKinley depend on photography and as a result revert to older forms, with small people dwarfed by large buildings. Instead of the old monumentality, the photograph reduces everything to minute, dull, and inarticulate detail.

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