Wendy Lower on the Political Power of Photography
In Conversation with Andrew Keen on the Keen On Podcast
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In this episode, Andrew is joined by Wendy Lower, author of The Ravine, to dive into some of the stories of the millions of individuals who were killed during the Holocaust, as well as to discuss how photography helps us confront the atrocities of the past.
From the episode:
Wendy Lower: If we make the connections to the power of photography today, it can be a kind of roadmap, as it were. One of the other things I mentioned the introduction, is if we uncover photos from lynchings, if we can really investigate those and investigate what happened and who’s in those photographs, it can tell us a lot about the history of racism here in the United States and of the collective violence, the kind of pogrom-type of violence, that was inflicted on Black communities across the US, especially in the southern states.
One of the photographs that I mentioned in this report that’s recycled all the time as a kind of go-to Holocaust photograph in museums is the man in Vinnytsia, Ukraine, kneeling before a pit, wearing a crumpled jacket, being shot in the back of the neck. People have seen this. They’ve asked me about it. If you look into the footnotes, you’ll see that there are more stories about these photographs. And the one from Vinnytsia, I found out, had been reproduced on T-shirts and commercialized on mugs. So the other message is that these photos, we should look at them, but again handle with care and not commercialize them in this way, but understand the power of these photographs to actually effect change and understanding about racism and anti-Semitism.
Wendy Lower, the John K. Roth Professor of History and director of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College, is the author of the National Book Award and National Jewish Book Award finalist Hitler’s Furies, which has been translated into twenty-three languages.