Whitman and Trachtenberg

      Trachtenberg suggests that photographs bring true value to historical facts.  There is no manipulation of events because a photo captures a moment of reality without alteration.  However, there is  a contradictation when he says ,”they  are vulnerable.  They have obscurities of other forms of evidence.”  There are still questions that we ask ourselves that the photograph  cannot answer for us.

                In reading Trachtenberg,  Oliver Wendell Holmes suggests to us that the immense clarity a  photograph offers can be unappealing.  These images bring back painful memories, reviving a horrific moment over and over again-that we are trying to repress(294). For example, the dismembered bodies of soldiers.  Therefore, viewers  are “sicken at such sights”(295).  The photograph is a copy-“relics of sort, emblems that which we refuse to look at and yet cannot avoid seeing?(296)”    However, it was more than these  gruesome depictions that Holmes wanted to repress.  He wanted to repress  what the photographs represented- “unexpected savagery of a civilization and mass destruction of the war”(296). In opposition to Whitman’s account on war, the photograph gives us no room for imagination. It hits us hard with a “true” image whether  we want to remember it or not.

                However, Whitman’s account on war goes into detail, telling a narrative that we can visualize in our mind.   We know more by reading Whitman’s accounts.  Although we cannot visualize the narrative at face value like a photograph,  we still feel  like we are part of the narrative.  Since a photograph is a still shot of one particular moment, it doesn’t provide the viewer with a continuous string of actions that a narrative form presents to us.  The narrative account presents  details that may be hidden within a photo.

                Trachtenberg talks about how Brady introduces us to the album, where we arrange photographs to our liking.  There is a manipulation  of the sequence of events. If we got back to Whitman’s account, there is also a manipulation of the narrative text  because it is written through one perspective.  What the album offers us is the combining of text and visual aid together , which could possibly give us a stronger “truth” than if we interpret these two mediums separately (293).

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2 Responses to Whitman and Trachtenberg

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