Summary of Alan Trachtenberg1

Summary of Alan Trachtenberg1 - Summary of Alan...

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Summary of Alan Trachtenberg’s Albums of War: On Reading Civil War Photographs Trachtenberg starts his essay with a quotation by Paul Valery. A part of the quote, “Could such and such a fact, as it is narrated, have been photographed?” means to me that it is impossible to tell the entire story of a photograph. Of course a photograph tells you something, but can you really know all of the factors that played into that picture? I propose that you cannot. You know neither the motives of the photographer, nor the history surrounding the photographed. A picture is simply taken out of context, and I contend that no photograph is in itself, a fact. It is easy to make this mistake, that a photograph is fact. When we see a photograph we can imagine our eyes being the lens that took the picture. Almost as if we blinked twice, and that picture is what we saw during that fraction of a second that our eyes were open. It is difficult, if not impractical, to tell for certain what happened before and after our eyes were open. Francis Trevalyan Miller wrote, “These time-stained photographs are the only unarguable facts to survive the war.”
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