TNR on Capa, Cartier-Bresson, and other photojournalists

January 19, 2011

A propos of Susie Linfield’s new book on Robert Capa, James Nachtwey, and others, Jed Perl reflects in The New Republic on the importance of “great photojournalism”:

Photojournalists are yesterday’s heroes. … Few photographers are any longer seen as providing definitive information about some national or international trouble spot, at least very few who are what used to be called professionals. … The whole idea that photography has some particular purchase on the truth has been called into question in places high and low, from the writings of Susan Sontag to the rants on cable TV. … Linfield’s new book—The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence (University of Chicago Press)—is a beautifully considered and unabashedly impassioned plea for the continuing moral relevance of photojournalism. … Robert Capa’s photographs, taken more than half a century ago, are the work of an unabashed idealist, and we understand when Capa photographs the Spanish Civil War that he wants to show “rare kinds of commitment and ideals of fraternity,” a particular “peculiar combination of pain and possibility.” Neither Peress’s Iran nor Capa’s Spain gives us the whole truth about a time and a place. But that does not mean their photographs are a pack of lies, either.

More here.