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Witness in Our Time, Second Edition

Working Lives of Documentary Photographers

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eBook published by Smithsonian Books (Smithsonian)

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About This Book

Witness in Our Time traces the recent history of social documentary photography in the words of twenty-nine of the genre's best photographers, editors, and curators, showing how the profession remains vital, innovative, and committed to social change. The second edition includes a new section of interviews on documentary photography in the field and an exploration of the role of photojournalism in 21st-century media. Witness in Our Time provides an insider's view of a profession that continues to confront questions of art and truth while extending the definitions of both.

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Witness in Our Time traces the recent history of social documentary photography in the words of twenty-nine of the genre's best photographers, editors, and curators, showing how the profession remains vital, innovative, and committed to social change. The second edition includes a new section of interviews on documentary photography in the field and an exploration of the role of photojournalism in 21st-century media. Witness in Our Time provides an insider's view of a profession that continues to confront questions of art and truth while extending the definitions of both.

Product Details
eBook (280 pages)
Published: October 5, 2010
Publisher: Smithsonian
Imprint: Smithsonian Books
ISBN: 9781588343062
Other books byKen Light
  • Coal Hollow - Photographs and Oral Histories

    Coal Hollow - Photographs and Oral Histories
    Coal is still king in much of Appalachia, yet the heritage and history of the people who enabled the United States to become an economic superpower in the Industrial age are slipping away. This remarkable book presents arresting black and white photographs and powerful oral histories that chronicle the legacy of coalmining in southern West Virginia. Ken and Melanie Light traveled hundreds of miles through rugged, isolated terrain recording the stories of a range of people whose lives were shaped by coal: retired miners, men and women who have been jobless their entire lives, a contemporary coal baron, a justice of the State Supreme Court of West Virginia, a writer who bravely ran for governor on a third party ticket, and people who returned to the hills when their lives failed elsewhere. What emerges is a complex portrait of people locked into an intricate web of geography, history, and unfettered profiteering. In Light's poignant images and in their own distinctive voices the residents of Coal Hollow--a fictional composite of the communities the Lights surveyed--reveal how the intersection of mountain culture and the greed of the coal companies produced the most powerful economy in the world yet brought crushing poverty to a region of once-proud people.

    Assignment, Shanghai - Pictures on the Eve of Revolution

    Assignment, Shanghai - Pictures on the Eve of Revolution
    Shipping out to China in December 1947 with three ten-year-old German cameras and a plum assignment fromLifemagazine, Jack Birns was fulfilling a boyhood dream. The reality was something else: refugees and prostitutes, soldiers and beggars, street executions and urban protests photographed in difficult and often dangerous circumstances amidst the poverty, corruption, and chaos of an expanding civil war. By then the ruling Nationalist Party had been battling the Communist threat for more than two decades, and Birns focused his camera on the human drama unfolding as war pressed ever closer to the country's financial, cultural, and commercial capital. His effort to show China's misery up close ran afoul of Time-Life publisher Henry R. Luce's fervent anti-communism, and for half a century many of these historic photographs lay unpublished in Time-Life'sarchives. Printed here for the first time, they offer a graphic vision of a great city, Shanghai, poised on the precipice of political revolution. Seen through the lens of hindsight, Birns's photographs give us a sense not only of what China was like more than fifty years ago, but also of why the warfare, weariness, and desperation of the time proved such fertile soil for communist revolution. Today these everyday scenes of ordinary people--pedicab drivers, street vendors, bar girls, police, politicians, prisoners--tell a story of national resilience and dignity in the midst of enveloping poverty, repression, and fear. Birns's stark black and white photographs capture the dramatic end of an era, but they also look forward, letting us glimpse how Shanghai's past prefigures the city's commercial and cultural revival in the 1990s.

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