new-york

“Camera As Weapon”

Grey Art Gallery

Flies crawl across a sleeping baby’s face; a massive unemployment line unfurls beside a building inscribed with the graffito “Wählt Hitler” (Vote for Hitler; the year is circa 1933, the place, Hannover); a child writes “Streik” (Strike) at the bottom of her exercise book; a sign at the edge of a wood proclaims, “Juden sind in unsern deutschen Wäldern nicht erwünscht” (Jews are not wanted in our German forests); peddlers hawk lemons, shoes, chestnuts, anything they can. Images such as these were being published by workers in their own periodicals long before Walter Benjamin—in his famous 1934 essay, “The Author as Producer”—underlined the revolutionary potential afforded by the mass media to minimize the boundary between the producers and the consumers of information. By the late ’20s the Communist Party’s efforts to bring workers into the fold through photography had given rise to a thriving

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