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Peter Burke Visto y No Visto El Uso de La Imagen Como Documento Historico Burke Peter

Peter Burke Visto y No Visto El Uso de La Imagen Como Documento Historico Burke Peter

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Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence. By Peter Burke. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001. Pp. 223. $35.
As we enter an increasingly digital age, the ease with which images can be manipulated and fabricated is becoming all the more apparent. Yet questions concerning the veracity of images are neither new nor specific to digital media. As Peter Burke illustrates in Eyewitnessing, images have a long tradition of distorting the facts. Of what use, then, are images to scholars of history? What types of historical evidence do images provide? Burke sets out to answer these questions. His book is intended to encourage and instruct readers in the historiographic use of images, and it succeeds splendidly on both counts.

Through an impressive array of case studies, Burke demonstrates the value of images to historians while providing instructive warnings about their use. The text proceeds with the right amount of caution and skepticism, making clear that images do not function as mirrors of the world any more than texts do. Images may appear to present their subjects in an unmediated, objective manner—especially in the case of documentary photography—but this "reality effect" is illusory (p. 130). Instead, as Burke skillfully articulates, images represent a particular "point of view" (p. 122).

Burke decries what he sees as the inattention of historians and historical journals to visual materials. Some scholars, however, have begun to use visual sources with greater regularity and sophistication, and Burke frequently cites Simon Schama's work in The Embarrassment of Riches (1987) as exemplary in this regard. I would add David E. Nye's Image Worlds (1985), which offers a visually rich history of General Electric using the company's photographic archives. In the critical tradition that Burke advocates, both Schama and Nye use images not as mere illustrations of the histories that they present but as agents of history, affecting the evolution of values and beliefs.

Burke's title provides a legal analogy that he weaves through the text: images are variously described to be "witnessing," providing "testimony," and offering "evidence" (pp. 159, 85, 10). But images also—and this is one of Burke's main points—interpret history: they bring to history their own meanings and viewpoints. To expand upon Burke's analogy, the image is a witness that must be cross-examined.

In eight of eleven chapters, Burke puts the methods that he is proposing into practice. He proceeds thematically through examinations of photography and portraiture, religious iconography, political imagery, material culture, societal views of children and women, stereotypes and imaging of the "Other," visual narratives, and historical painting and film. The breadth of his case studies is admirable; moving with facility between analyses of the Bayeux Tapestry and the films of Akira Kurosawa, Burke offers subtle and illuminating readings of works that are sensitive to their historical and cultural variations. One notable absence in Burke's study is a sustained consideration of modes of abstraction as historical evidence. How might Kasimir Malevich's Black Square or Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial be read as "witnessing" history? Do the terms of analysis change when an image or monument diverges from a visual rhetoric of figuration?

The remaining three chapters take a broader view of the methodologies that exist for a critical consideration of images. The reader should be warned not to expect a comprehensive survey of art history and its methods. Instead, in brief discussions of the iconographic, psychoanalytic, structuralist, and poststructuralist approaches to the study of images, Burke provides refreshingly lucid critiques of these methods. It soon becomes apparent, however, that his methodological affinities are most closely aligned with the approaches of the social history of art, which he discusses in his final chapter. Burke raise
Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence. By Peter Burke. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2001. Pp. 223. $35.
As we enter an increasingly digital age, the ease with which images can be manipulated and fabricated is becoming all the more apparent. Yet questions concerning the veracity of images are neither new nor specific to digital media. As Peter Burke illustrates in Eyewitnessing, images have a long tradition of distorting the facts. Of what use, then, are images to scholars of history? What types of historical evidence do images provide? Burke sets out to answer these questions. His book is intended to encourage and instruct readers in the historiographic use of images, and it succeeds splendidly on both counts.

Through an impressive array of case studies, Burke demonstrates the value of images to historians while providing instructive warnings about their use. The text proceeds with the right amount of caution and skepticism, making clear that images do not function as mirrors of the world any more than texts do. Images may appear to present their subjects in an unmediated, objective manner—especially in the case of documentary photography—but this "reality effect" is illusory (p. 130). Instead, as Burke skillfully articulates, images represent a particular "point of view" (p. 122).

Burke decries what he sees as the inattention of historians and historical journals to visual materials. Some scholars, however, have begun to use visual sources with greater regularity and sophistication, and Burke frequently cites Simon Schama's work in The Embarrassment of Riches (1987) as exemplary in this regard. I would add David E. Nye's Image Worlds (1985), which offers a visually rich history of General Electric using the company's photographic archives. In the critical tradition that Burke advocates, both Schama and Nye use images not as mere illustrations of the histories that they present but as agents of history, affecting the evolution of values and beliefs.

Burke's title provides a legal analogy that he weaves through the text: images are variously described to be "witnessing," providing "testimony," and offering "evidence" (pp. 159, 85, 10). But images also—and this is one of Burke's main points—interpret history: they bring to history their own meanings and viewpoints. To expand upon Burke's analogy, the image is a witness that must be cross-examined.

In eight of eleven chapters, Burke puts the methods that he is proposing into practice. He proceeds thematically through examinations of photography and portraiture, religious iconography, political imagery, material culture, societal views of children and women, stereotypes and imaging of the "Other," visual narratives, and historical painting and film. The breadth of his case studies is admirable; moving with facility between analyses of the Bayeux Tapestry and the films of Akira Kurosawa, Burke offers subtle and illuminating readings of works that are sensitive to their historical and cultural variations. One notable absence in Burke's study is a sustained consideration of modes of abstraction as historical evidence. How might Kasimir Malevich's Black Square or Maya Lin's Vietnam Veterans Memorial be read as "witnessing" history? Do the terms of analysis change when an image or monument diverges from a visual rhetoric of figuration?

The remaining three chapters take a broader view of the methodologies that exist for a critical consideration of images. The reader should be warned not to expect a comprehensive survey of art history and its methods. Instead, in brief discussions of the iconographic, psychoanalytic, structuralist, and poststructuralist approaches to the study of images, Burke provides refreshingly lucid critiques of these methods. It soon becomes apparent, however, that his methodological affinities are most closely aligned with the approaches of the social history of art, which he discusses in his final chapter. Burke raise

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Published by: Enrique León Ferrand on Oct 10, 2013
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