Free markets and insurance

by Henry Farrell on July 27, 2009

I’m not writing about the debates over health insurance (as, indeed, I am not writing about most policy debates), because I simply don’t think I’m informed enough to say anything very useful about the pros and cons of the specific options under discussion. Still, “this”: by Alex Tabarrok struck me as a bit odd. [click to continue…]

Staged? Faked? The ambiguities of the photograph

by Chris Bertram on July 27, 2009

It is disappointing to get what appears to be definitive evidence that Robert Capa’s photograph of the falling soldier was staged. Sadly, too, I’m inclined to agree with the thought that the staging in that case also amounts to fakery. Still, I’m far from certain about my reactions here: staging a photograph is not, in itself, sufficient to make the charge stick. I was thinking last night about the US Civil War photographs where we suspect the photographers rearranged the bodies, and that is one of the examples that Philip Gefter discusses in an essay on the problem at the New York Times. Many of Bill Brandt’s photographs of English upper and working-class lives were staged, but that staging doesn’t make them bogus. Rather Brandt was using artifice to get his subjects to enact a role more general than any particular haphazard moment. That also seems true of the Lewis Hine pictures that Gefter discusses. Capa’s soldier seems altogether more problematic. We _could_ say that he is an icon standing for the many soldiers who did in fact die for the Republic, but that doesn’t feel right since it would be hard for the image to play that role for us if we knew that the man was simply acting. Brandt’s subjects were (barely) acting, but they were at least playing parts that they also played in life. And for reasons Susan Sontag discussed long ago, the fact of photographic _selection_ means that even where a picture appears to have a definite semantic charge, it would be naive to take that as a veridical report, since the image may well have been chosen for that effect from a sequence of which all the rest conveyed a quite different impression.