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- 1 2018-07-28T02:11:01-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3 Annotation Foreword Photo 1 Verena Kick 3 plain 2018-07-28T04:02:38-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3
- 1 2018-07-28T02:12:26-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3 Staging Leisure Verena Kick 2 plain 2018-07-28T04:02:40-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3
- 1 2018-07-28T03:15:43-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3 Identities unkown Verena Kick 2 plain 2018-07-28T04:02:42-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3
This page has paths:
- 1 2018-06-13T01:00:28-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3 Path 6: Comparisons of several Functional Montages Verena Kick 4 "Vorrede", "Schöne Zeiten", "Nie Allein" and "Heimat" plain 2018-07-28T22:38:47-07:00 Verena Kick 1d32e4579dc15a1815e8d60cddf98a623f5bf4a3
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Step 1: "Stop Reading! Look!"*
* (Johannes Molzahn, typographer, 1928)
Pictured above are photo 1, photo 2 and photo 3 that Tucholsky and Heartfield included in GG's second preface:
". . . because once you've studied the pictures for a while, they begin to speak. The people in the pictures hold still - so patiently, that you can study them at your leisure. And when you're wholly inside the picture, the people speak." (Kurt Tucholsky, "Foreword" GG)
"Foreword: or, it is impossible to write captions for photographs"
Step 1: Spend about 20-30 seconds with each photograph.
Be patient! Take your time!
Try to answer these questions for each photograph:
- Looking at these photographs: What do you notice?
- Who is in those photographs?
- Are they types or individuals?
- In which direction are the depicted persons looking?
- What are they looking at?
Once you have answered these questions for all three photographs, move on to Step 2.
- 1 2018-06-13T00:48:00-07:00 Photograph 1 5 plain 2018-07-26T06:16:14-07:00 This is the first photo.
Step 5: Now again: Read and Look!
In addition to directing the readers to differentiate between the photographed subject as a private figure or as part of a social class, Tucholsky is asking them to rely on their body and senses, in short, their individuality. When interacting with DD’s photographs, probably the most powerful way, I argue, is Tucholsky’s and Heartfield’s goal to educate the reader to become visually literate. The reader is tasked to take a step back so as to not identify herself with the subjects, the parts of a mass, but to look beyond and recognize just how powerful photographs, montages and photomontages can be. While Tucholsky comments in-depth on the first photograph of GG, he seems to neglect the other two ones: the press photographers at work and the group photograph of the club members. Yet, their careful placement within and next to the text performs essentially a montage that creates a second, visual narrative for this preface, in addition to the textual one.
The image of the group of photographers is unlike the other two ones, neither preceding or following the text. It is set on the right side of the page, its width broader than the text to the left to it. In fact, the text’s narrow, column-like appearance underlines its content: a list of subjects and places whose images conjure up an image of Germany, captured in a “picture book,” as Tucholsky writes at the end of the list (2). It is no coincidence that the photo of the photographers is to the right of this text column. Their lenses are after all pointed to the left, underlining that, indeed, the list of places are the photos the reader finds in picture books. Though they are not shown here in the blank space between the text and the image, they probably come to the reader’s mind.
While the reader is learning about how meaningfully text and images can be combined here, let’s not forget that the photograph in itself acts out what Tucholsky asks for from his readers when he addresses the binary of a photo’s subject either being a private one or a typical figure for a group or class. While the first group photo indeed left this binary undecided, the image of the press photographers does not. These men all hold their cameras, wear coats, while tasked to stand outside and wait for the event or subject to be photographed. This picture is not staged, it just seems to be another photographer observing his colleagues at work. The subjects do not look towards the camera, and many of their faces are not clearly visible, blurred even, or hidden behind cameras. In fact, the lenses and their cameras are dominating, not their identities. The reader is not questioning their single identities or is interested in them. The visual narrative of this single photograph is then even further extended when seen in relationship with the other two photos. To that end, the reader has to take another step further back, recognizing the montage of the entire preface:
While the second photograph shows in itself how the ambiguity of private and public can be resolved, at the same time, in context with the other two photos, it demonstrates the power of the photograph that does not lie in depicting events and subjects authentically, but in creating ambiguity or, on the contrary, imposing an unambiguity. With the photographers’ lenses pointed left, it appears that, on the opposite page, they are photographing the men and women of the first group photo. Since it is not just a random photo of workers shown here, but a mass of press photographers, the image to the left is put in a different context, questioning whether this is a private group shot, intended for a photo album, or a group of famous public figures photographed at a time of leisure.
Factoring in the third photo of this preface — the members of a club standing next to each other, the photo taken from an angle as if the photographers of the second photo had taken the picture — the sense that the first photo is one of the public for the public is reinforced.
Whether this is the case or not, the montage of these three photographs in a consecutive, interacting way at least suggests this interpretation. More importantly, it instructs and educates readers to watch out for more of such visual narratives in GG that require readers, in addition to identifying themselves with the subjects, to take a step back and view everything as if from the outside.
Step 2: Look again!
Step 2: Look again at the three photographs.Use your mouse or touchpad to hover over the images. Annotations will pop up and tell you more about what you see.
Have you noticed everything during Step 1?
All three photographs included in "Vorrede" depict various group settings.
- The first photograph shows four middle-aged men, wearing light summer clothing, and two women, wearing black bathing suits.
- While this photograph is capturing a time of leisure, the second photo included in the “Vorrede” shows a group of press photographers at work.
- The last photograph in the “Vorrede” is again a staged one.
Step 3: Read and Look!
Step 3: Now let's take Tucholsky's accompanying essay of the "Foreword" into account:
Tucholsky addresses directly the binary between individuality and group culture in his essay, tying in the issue of photography and its presumed authenticity. Photographs can blur the lines between the private and the public sphere. The first photo can be typical for the “upper middle-class” (GG 3) while it is also “private” (GG 3), showing individuals as Tucholsky marks by providing placeholders, for their individual names “Mr. A, and Mr B and C and D with their ladies” (GG 3). The danger to categorize these individuals as types for a specific social class lies not only in the openness of the photograph to be interpreted one way or another. A textual component that could provide clarification to the visual ambiguity also carries a risk due to its irreversible unequivocalness. Once a citizen or worker, who is not part of public life, is photographed and then “captioned,” in a way that she becomes and represents her social class, it can also lead to a mishap and even legal complications that would threaten the publication of GG (3). Hence, Tucholsky directly appeals to his readers that he will provide contextualizations for GG's photos — despite the preface’s title about the impossibility to write text for a photograph in order to find the typical within them, “the typical” (3). Even the font for “the typical” is changed in the third to last paragraph of the “Foreword,” making it stand out and underline Tucholsky’s goal to provide a profile of Germany, not leaving out the “maggots” (3) like so many photo books about Germany did at the time (12).
While this direct appeal that he will not invade the individual’s private sphere is certainly influencing the readers’ mindset, there are two additional ways Tucholsky is educating his reader, so as to not being a mass-consumer who just briefly looks at photographs while moving on to reading the accompanying text. The first way is the focus on the reader’s body and senses. With appellative commands, using the imperative “Look!” (3) (much like me asking you to Stop Reading! Look!) and directly addressing the reader with the informal “du/you,” Tucholsky aims to foster a very personal interaction of the reader with the photographs. It goes so far that the reader is told not to just look at a photo for several minutes, but to crawl (“hineinkriechen”) into a photograph (2). This goes beyond a critical stance of a reader just looking and observing. The reader’s crawling, aligning her with an infant that is, like her, also still learning or an animal, will lead to the images talking back, as Tucholsky claims. However, the reader will not learn any facts, but learn about the subjects, their emotions and mindsets. By casting his readers as infants or animals paired with an emphasis on using their senses, Tucholsky underlines that his readers do not need an intellectual approach in order to understand images. This way anyone, high or low class, literate or illiterate has a chance and ability to understand what they see.
In fact, once a reader immerses herself in a photograph, these will “speak” and deliver messages that are part of an endless stream of visual messages — similar to the mass media’s constant output of content (2). There is a flood of images, a “unending picture book — Germany” (2) coming at his readers. In one long sentence, Tucholsky lists what can be seen in these images: the list moves from people and their various personal characteristics, to their economical status — focusing on the millions of workers — and finally to places, starting with the workers’ houses, which Tucholsky does not place within cities. In his idyllic imagery, the workers’ houses are surrounded by “fields (2). Workers, as GG will show in text and image, usually lived in tight quarters within a city. The list of places continues then with references to both landscapes and public buildings:
This long sentence and its endless list of places, marked by an ellipsis in the end, ends neither with a natural space, nor with an artificial one, but with one of imagination: the movie theater. In fact, while the entire paragraph is based on the antitheses of natural spaces and artificial ones, Tucholsky ends with the cinema and the very last words: “picture book —: Germany” (2). Like in the movie theater and the picture book, GG will show Germany to its readers, asking them to be open to this representation, without seeing themselves in natural spaces or at work. Instead the reader is supposed to take a step back and to consider their actual reality, the one of photographs and acknowledge the difference between these two kinds of realities, all the while starting to imagine an alternative reality. Tucholsky does so by underlining that an image is not an image, but rather built on ambiguity that escapes the unequivocalness of words.