Aesthetic Atrocity Disaster Sublime (Photography at the New York Times)

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Happy new year? This is what 2013 looked like, at least in the New York Times. I’ve been thinking this for awhile now, that the New York Times turns the image of atrocity and disaster into a sublime picture. I don’t like it, the landscape viewed from a distance, the meticulous composition of a close-up, and saturated color. They are meant to “touch” us and move us, but to what if any end? To open us up to the world or to the world as image? Not ugly enough, not ordinary enough, the photographs look too staged, too aesthetic. Sometimes you do but sometimes you don’t want to violate those critical gaps between one thing and another. In a newspaper, it’s probably just a bad idea. I love the New York Times, but sometimes when I first take in the image, I don’t always know what it is I’m supposed to be seeing. When I figure it out, I can’t shake the sense that something, a trust, has been violated. Is it news or is it art? Do we want to reduce the one to the other?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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