University of Cambridge Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages Tripos Part II 2011 Year Abroad Project (Dissertation)
‘Una estética del poder’: Photographic construction, propaganda and ideology during the Spanish Civil War
‘Una estética del poder’: Photographic construction, propaganda and ideology during the Spanish Civil War During the course of the twentieth century and the beginning of the twenty-first war and photography have become inseparable and it was the Spanish Civil War that was the first war to be witnessed in a modern sense. A corps of professional photographers, among them Gerda Taro, Robert Capa, David Seymour and Kati Horna, covered the front line as well as those towns and cities under bombardment and their photographs were then published in newspapers and magazines in Europe and beyond, thus constituting the most important source of information on the Spanish conflict. The above photographers produced images that portrayed both the horrifically sordid and the appallingly absurd aspects of this fratricidal war, in a dichotomic amalgam of the real and the surreal. Combined with text, fragmented or placed in juxtaposition with other images, these photographs and others like them formed ‘una estética del poder’1 and were used by both the Nationalist and Republican cause respectively as a weapon in this ideological battle. I. The surreal, the symbolic and the sordid Photographs come in many guises: as fine art, photo journalism and as evidence in legal proceedings among many others but what is fundamental in every photograph is that they are all a ‘means of testing, confirming and constructing a total view of reality.’2 On one hand, photographs are an enduring fragment of a past reality and present the viewer with an insight into the way things were: even if the image distorts this view of the past, one can always be certain that something exists, or used to exist, which is similar to what is seen in the photograph. On the other hand, however, as Sontag suggests: Surrealism lies at the heart of the photographic enterprise: in the very creation of a duplicate world, of a reality in the second degree, narrower but more dramatic than the one perceived by natural vision.3 She goes on to posit that what makes a photograph in itself surreal is the ‘distance imposed, and bridged […], the social distance and the distance in time.’4 This aspect of Surrealism plays with our concrete notions of time and space: what we take to be true and certain in our everyday lives. One of the aims of the Surrealist movement was to enhance the strangeness in the everyday so that the familiar is rendered unfamiliar and peculiar. It is like seeing a room in one’s home inverted in a mirror; the furniture is in its correct position and the windows open out onto the same view but we cannot shake the feeling that what we see is new, strange and different. Photographers documenting the devastation of the Civil War top Spain’s infrastructure created Surrealist visions in images of bombed houses with no façades. Photographs of the damage inflicted on the urban face of Spain during a time of relentless bombardments were endlessly featured in the foreign press, particularly in France and Britain, and seemed to posses a certain fascinating quality. Image 1 is a Robert Capa photograph of a bombed apartment in which framed images remain hanging on the wall and a vase of flowers sits undisturbed on a plant stand. The only ostensible thing wrong with this image, alerting the viewer as to why Capa recorded it, is that the door has been blown in and the rooms below and above the one the camera focuses on are visible; the ceilings and floors as if sliced away by a knife. By destroying huge parts of this building and sparing small items within it, the bomb creates a Surrealist landscape and the viewer recognizes the surreal contradiction that:
walls now acted as windows, floors as window ledges, […] that doorways led to nowhere and that roofs provided no protection from the elements.5 The interior of this apartment has been opened up to the outside world, turning a private space into an anonymous public one in what Caroline Brothers calls ‘an eruption of the absurd into daily urban life.’6 The privacy of the individual has been lost in the overwhelming technological power of the bomb. This absurd loss of privacy is demonstrated by the presence of the prying eye of the camera and, through it, our prying eyes as viewers. Image 2, a photograph taken in Lérida by Kati Horna, shows the façade of a bombed apartment block. The wallpapered walls of people’s homes have been exposed by the blast and, on the top floor, what appears to be a framed painting or photograph remains hanging on the wall, intact: the door to its left would now open only onto a void where a room used to be. Even the trees, all apart from one to the left of the photograph, have been destroyed and point bare limbs towards the sky, as if they were pointing the finger at the bombers responsible. On the right hand side of the photograph a standard lamp and bookshelves can just be discerned in one of the rooms and in others there are more pieces of furniture that have been displaced from their usual positions by the force of the blast. In the street below the bombed building, however, a woman sifts through a pile of household items – mattresses, chests and various items of clothing – perhaps searching for the precious objects she has lost in this aberration from the ‘accepted order and appearance of the urban environment.’7 Objects appear displaced, resulting in surreal and illogical juxtapositions that are accepted as a consequence of war. Caroline Brothers has suggested that images such as these stand as an iconographical record of devastation, illustrating but not explaining the manner in which all content had been excavated from the city’s structures until their very description as buildings became an antilogy approaching the absurd.8 The camera captures the tragic realism of the situation for the inhabitants of these buildings but in a surrealistic way that struck a chord with foreign readers of publications from around the world. It records the reality of what is no longer and, through its depiction of devastation to buildings, reminds the viewer of something that used to exist but exists no longer. This is the defining feature of a photograph: it is a tangible reminder of the past that prevents it from being lost completely. This is why people take photographs of their loved ones and of happy events: to remember them when they have been erased by time or distance. Photographs are both a tangible object but are also symbolic of a past reality and, like paintings and other works of art, they can contain symbols for the viewer to decode. During the Spanish Civil War photographers took pains to present soldiers as being heroic and brave as well as being conscious of conforming to tacit rules of taste. Caroline Brothers states that ‘news photographs are used almost exclusively as evidence’9, however, photojournalists documented injury and death inflicted on soldiers and civilians alike and their images were used in the same way as those of war-torn buildings in foreign publications; mainly to provoke sympathy for Spain in Europe. Pages in British and French publications reporting on the Spanish Civil War were largely sanitized due to some images being judged by editors as being too shocking for public consumption. Thus, the representation of war injury and death was euphemistic in tone and symbols were used to depict death. In an image published by Reynolds’ News in 1936 a single soldier is seen approaching the photographer carrying four rifles. The caption is vital for our understanding of the image. Titles ‘After the Battle’ it reads: Bringing home his old comrades’ rifles on the outskirts of Madrid. Each rifle symbolizes a dead soldier. There also appeared photographs such as Image 3 by Kati Horna in which Horna portrays an injured soldier on a stretcher, covered over completely with a blanket, acting as a barrier between our eyes and the truth of the extent of his injury. The soldier’s dishevelled hair and facial 3
expression inform us that he is wounded but, essentially, he functions as a symbol of bravery in the face of suffering. Photographs such as this one provoked sympathy in the public who saw them but did not cross the line between taste and the desire to shock. Image 4 by Robert Capa is of a dying soldier dictating his last words to a comrade. There is some blood on the bandage on the soldier’s head but the blood and the bandage are merely symbols of the man’s true suffering and the viewer does not see the full extent of his wounds. Capa keeps his distance from the two men, not wanting to intrude into the scene and so the viewer feels removed from the photograph as though it were not real. This photograph was featured in the British magazine Picture Post on 3 December 1938 with the caption: But for this man it is the end: A dying man gives his last letter. He will never go home again. He will never write any letters after this one. He speaks a few broken sentences. A comrade listens, tries to catch his meaning, jots the words down. Later he will contrive to send them home. Another brave man has met his end. The caption is so awash with pathos that it does not let the photograph speak for itself and manages to draw the reader’s attention away from the injury itself, which becomes a secondary theme. Unashamedly propagandistic, the caption only gives one interpretation of the image it is attached to. Godard and Gorin assert that all images are ‘physically mute’10 and only talk through the mouth of the caption beneath them but in images of the Civil War pictures speak louder than words; the words only strengthen the message to render it a more powerful piece of propaganda. Naked reality is rarely pleasant but some publications, particularly French ones such as Regards, were prepared to publish images of the horrors of war, which can only be described as sordid. The images themselves seem to ‘express disgust at their own sordidness.’11 Surrealism is the ‘art of generalizing the grotesque and then discovering nuances (and charms) in that’12 and some photographers followed this Surrealist idea in their desire to shock society by whatever means possible. The British publication The Daily Worker published on 12 November 1936 undoubtedly some of the most sordid photographs of the war and felt the need to justify why they printed them (Image 5). The images are identification photographs of children killed in the raid on the town of Getafe, outside Madrid, on 30 October 1936. Here there is no symbolism to represent death and no euphemism to soften the blow to the viewer’s senses. Blood stains their faces, their clothing and the ground; the eyes of some are open. The identification labels on their chests a sign of their new status as objects to be catalogued to be utilized as propaganda and evidence. The images were taken as proof of Nationalist barbarity; their juxtaposition with a photograph of an English child playing in the sun and the caption ‘Nazi Bomb Kills Seventy Spanish Children’ reinforcing the message. Roland Barthes has discussed what he calls a photograph’s punctum13 (the Latin term for a ‘sting’, ‘speck’ or ‘cut’), or that which is striking and poignant to the viewer. All photographs of the Spanish Civil War have a punctum because of their pathos but none more so than Image 5 which possesses a tragic realism that arrests our gaze and haunts us. Brothers suggests that the aesthetic quality of the photograph ‘neutralizes their power to disturb and makes the unpalatable tolerable’14 but only to a limit: when the viewer really looks at the image, no amount of aesthetically pleasing composition can detract from the sordidness of what was captured on film. Unquestionably the most famous and enduring photograph of the Spanish Civil War is Robert Capa’s Death of a Republican Soldier (Image 6). Considerable controversy has surrounded this image since its first publication in Vu on 23 September 1936 because, at its heart, are questions concerning the ‘nature an reliability of photographic truth.’15 Neither caption nor negative have been preserved for this photograph and many critics have suggested that it was staged. The blurriness of the photograph, the shadow above the crown of the soldier’s head and the awkward angles of this body suggest that a bullet has reached its target just as Capa took the photograph, conferring great power to the image as representative of the nature of death in war and for the Spanish Civil War in particular. However, all this evidence amounts to nothing when 4
on considers that there are no other soldiers captured in the photograph and in the background is the cropped grass of a hillside with more hills in the distance suggesting, according to Brothers, ‘age-old poetic conceits in which reaped harvests were a metaphor for death.’16 The dark shadow could simply be the tassel of the soldier’s cap blurred in motion. Moreover, Vu also published alongside this image a second photograph (Image 6) in which another militiaman meets his death. Given that in the 1930s photographs capturing the exact moment of a bullet reaching its target were rare, without the technologically sophisticated equipment at the disposal of war photographers today, it is improbable that Capa was able to capture the exact moment of death of two different soldiers. Brothers is of the opinion that Capa staged the photograph using two soldiers and a camera mounted on a tripod, particularly as the background and the light falling on it appear almost identical in both images. Life use the first image as part of an article on the causes of the war and the death and destruction caused by it in turn (Image 7). This piece of propaganda aims to provoke a mixture of sympathy and disgust in American citizens using emotive language to describe the extent of the destruction and the alleged behaviour of the Spanish ruling classes. The author sympathizes with the Republican cause, describing the ‘ancient’ cities of Spain as ‘shattered’ and by reviewing his or her opinion that the Republicans were ‘murderous scum.’ Instead, the ruling classes are given short shrift and condemned with a string of unflattering adjectives at the beginning of the second paragraph, including ‘irresponsible’, which is used in the previous paragraph to describe the Republicans as they were seen by U.S. citizens at the start of the war. Despite not being a true reflection of a past reality in that it does not show the actual death of a soldier, this image is nevertheless an archetypal symbol of death in war and a powerful piece of propaganda, particularly in combination with emotive text. No longer trustworthy evidence of an individual’s death, the photograph stands for the broader ideology of this era. This photograph stresses that a war death ‘heroic, and tragic, and that the individual counted and that his death mattered.’17 Mostly, it incites pity in the viewer for Spain’s plight and is, in essence, an image with true pathos. All photographs of the Spanish Civil War, whether they are surreal, symbolic or sordid, have a special relationship with reality but it is the sordid that represented reality in such a shocking way that grotesque images had more power over the thoughts and emotions of the Spanish public and people in other European countries in the form of propaganda. However, Sontag has argued recently that: The vast photographic catalogue of misery and injustice throughout the world has given everyone a certain familiarity with atrocity, making the horrible seem more ordinary – making it appear familiar.18 After repeated exposure to gruesome photographs we have lost our sense of moral outrage in the face of the horrific realities of war, starvation and natural disaster: the images have become banal and remote, less real: in some cases, they seem one dimensional. During the first half of the twentieth century, however, the technique of photomontage was developed in Europe by artists who, through their art, ‘committed their imagination to the service of a mass political struggle.’19 The way in which different types of image were taken from various sources and combined forced people to truly look at photographs, tiny pieces of reality, and to see through them, the true horrors of war and Fascism in Europe. II. ‘A provocative dismembering of reality’ (should I have a footnote here to reference where the quotation is from?)
Photomontage was first used in the 1930s by the Berlin Dadaists (Hannah Höch, Raoul Hausmann and John Heartfield among others) and was used increasingly by all political factions in Europe and Russia in the decades preceding the Second World War. Photomontage is particularly practicable in the form of commercial publicity but, more importantly, in political propaganda and, during the Spanish Civil War, was used on both Nationalist and Republican posters. Being ‘ideally suited to the expression of a Marxist dialectic’20, the technique is particularly associated with the political left. Photomontage is a form of political satire, a didactic weapon of propaganda and, through its use of fragmentation, combination and symbolism, it uses realist elements in an often surreal combination to convey a message about war and political struggle almost as powerfully as shocking documentary photographs of the dead and injured. The Dadaists themselves were revolutionary, being the first artists to use the photograph as material with which to create new art, tearing from the ‘chaos of war and revolution an entirely new image.’21 They took distinct photographs, or parts of them, and arranged them with newspaper and magazine cuttings as well as other artwork and text, coining the term ‘photomontage’ to describe the resultant collages. When combined in these collages, the separate elements took on the role of symbols because, for the viewer, it is clear that they did not originally belong together on the page; in perceiving this, the viewer is forced to ask themselves why these particular items have been selected and what they convey in combination. Text was used as an aid to the viewer’s understanding of this message, similar to the way in which, as we have already seen, captions gave an interpretation of photographs in European publications. One of the most prolific and well-known photomonteurs of the twentieth century was John Heartfield. He began his career in the Berlin Dada scene and principally produced photomontages commenting on the rise and reign of Fascism across Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, particularly in Germany during the Second World War but also in Spain during its civil war. Louis Aragón, the French poet and Communist Party supporter, wrote that John Heartfield’s art “es un cuchillo que entra en todos los corazones” and juxtaposing image and image or image and text Heartfield made the public instantly aware of the sharp contrast between propaganda and truth; between the surreal and the real: this is achieved principally through symbolism. Image 8 is a photomontage from a 1937 issue of the magazine VI (Volks Illustrierte or People’s Illustrated), the reincarnation of the German magazine AIZ (Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung or Workers’ Illustrated Paper) after its move to Prague in 1933, for which Heartfield produced 237 photomontages between 1930 and 1938. It is entitled ‘Baskenland’ or ‘Basque Country’ and was produced during the aftermath of the bombing of the Basque capital, Guernica, by German planes on 27 April 1937. Heartfield has placed a photograph of a disconsolate mother cradling her child in the foreground of the piece with another photograph of the damage inflicted on Guernica behind the two figures. The mother’s facial expression, the way in which the infant stares directly at the camera and the utter destruction of the building behind them incite feelings of pity and sympathy in the viewer. Heartfield has emphasized the consequences of the bombings – human grief and physical destruction – and, in doing so, conveys the message that the suffering caused to the citizens of Guernica cannot be mended as easily as the damage done to its infrastructure. It is for this reason that this photomontage is a successful piece of propaganda. Had an eyewitness photographed this mother and child standing outside of this bombed building with normal scale and perspective, the image would not have been as powerful nor would it have possessed as much pathos as it does in this form. Bertolt Brecht described as realist any artwork that helped the viewer grasp reality. Under this definition, then, this photomontage is realist because, through the techniques used, Heartfield made changes to images, (small, tangible pieces of the reality of the situation) to make it easier for the viewer to comprehend the full extent of the damage inflicted. However, ‘fragmentation is a commonplace of Surrealist art’22 and so Heartfield arranged the images in a surrealist manner to better convey a message about the reality of a situation. The scale and perspective of the two figures in front of the building are unusual and indicate to the viewer immediately that what they are looking at is a photomontage and
not a photograph. It is precisely this surreal aspect that forces us to really look at the image and to understand its message. Like the unsanitized images of the Civil War which showed the true horrors the damage inflicted by the conflict on soldiers and civilians alike, John Berger feels that in Heartfield’s best photomontages there is a ‘sense of everything having been soiled’23 even though it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how or why. The greyness, the very tonality of the photographic prints suggests it, as do the folds of the grey clothes, the outline of the frozen gestures, the half-shadows on pale faces […]. In ‘Baskenland’ it is the pathos of the two figures, the soft tonality of the greys that depict them in comparison with the harsh black and whites of the bombed building behind them. The photomontage seems sordid because the text at the foot of the photomontage, a contemporary report from the Times, emphasizes the terrible losses (as a result of the bombardments at Guernica, Durango, Bilbao, Amorebieta and Eibar, 2,000 civilians and 600 women and children were killed). The text in combination with the fragmented images is shocking and the viewer cannot help but be profoundly affected by what is depicted. Dawn Ades states that ‘it is clear that the photograph has a […] privileged place in relation to reality but that it is susceptible to being manipulated to reorganise or dis-organise that reality.’24 She goes on to describes the new image created by this reorganization as ‘chaotic, explosive […], a provocative dismembering of reality.’25 Therefore, then or now, this photomontage, because of its almost three-dimensional quality, could never be regarded passively in the same way images of grief and destruction are sometimes viewed in newspapers and magazines today, in a culture in which we are bombarded by horrific images.
In 1931 Bertolt Brecht wrote a note to the editor of AIZ on its tenth anniversary of publication to say that: […] the camera can lie just like the type-setting machine. The task of AIZ to serve truth and reproduce the real facts is of immense importance, and, it seems to me, has been achieved splendidly.26 Many of Heartfield’s photomontages for AIZ reproduced the ‘real facts’ by creating a comic vision of society, using traditional caricature and photography to comment on the underlying sinister aspects of the rule of Fascism in Germany, Russia and Spain, unveiling the reality behind the appearance of a society that was promoted by the propaganda offices of the Fascist governments in these countries. Heartfield declared in 1958, ‘I am for realism and as a party artist […] I am for socialist realism.’27 Under this personal ideology Heartfield took fragments of images that did not reveal anything about the hidden mechanisms of society and arranged them to articulate something about that same society using political satire in a combative way. Image 9 ‘The Thousand Year Reich’28 shows cards used for Skat, an early nineteenth-century German card game, built as a house of cards. The image of a house of cards on its own does not convey anything about German society in 1934 but, in combination with text and original artwork, it becomes a clear and pointed criticism of the Nazi party. David Evans explains that the lowest cards of the different suits ‘depict the German people suffering from economic autarky and propaganda.’29 The cards represent the hierarchy of power of the army, the military police and important figures in the Nazi party, such as Goebbels, among other aspects of German society at this time. The two of acorns shows Göring, Hitler’s designated successor, as “Der blutige Hermann” (Bloody Hermann), ‘a beastlike figure grasping images of a prison and an ax.’30 Hitler is represented on the lower right as the drummer (“Der Trommler”), suggesting that, although he is not at the top of the house of cards, he is very much in control of the people represented in it. The title and subject matter of this photomontage are related to a speech made at the Nuremberg party rally of August 1934 in which Hitler asserted that “In the next thousand years no further revolution will take place in Germany.” Heartfield cleverly recontextualizes this statement and ironically compares Hitler’s vision of the Third Reich as strong and long-lasting with a house of cards, unstable and likely to collapse at any moment. The depiction of high-ranking, influential Nazi leaders in caricature form undermines their authority as well as the authority of their propaganda and emphasizes the underlying sinister ideology of their regime. Through making metaphorical language visible, Heartfield suggests that the “thousand year Reich” is condemned and its leaders corrupt and bloodthirsty. As well as caricature and comic hybrid forms Heartfield, like his hero the French artist Honoré Daumier, Heartfield often exploited popular knowledge of fables and folklore in this work. Peace was regularly represented as a dove that was preyed upon by Fascist foxes, hawks, snakes and vultures in the satirical device of anthropomorphism. Image 10, titled ‘Madrid 1936’31, was part of an article entitled “Madrid, die heroische Stadt” (Madrid, the heroic city) and depicts how at the start of November 1936 the Nationalists threatened Madrid. We see a photograph of the city skyline that is dominated by two disproportionately large vultures both wearing military uniform, one with a swastika badge and the other with the Falange symbol of the yoke and three arrows. They clearly represent Hitler and Franco respectively. Three bayonets rise up from the bottom left-hand corner of the image, seemingly threatening the vultures. The bayonets appear to be linked to the slogan, ‘¡No pasarán! ¡Pasaremos!’ in representing the Republican fight against the insurgents entering the capital city. This slogan was most famously used in the Battle of Verdun during the First World War by Philippe Pétain to express determination to defend a position against an enemy: it appeared on propaganda posters. Later it was taken up by Dolores Ibárruri Gómez, known more famously as “La Pasionaria”, in her famous “No Pasarán” speech on 18 July 1936. The 8
Generalísimo’s response to the slogan was ‘Hemos pasado’ when Republican troops surrendered and Nationalist troops swarmed into Madrid on 28 March 1939. The anthropomorphization of the vultures carries the suggestion that Fascism, embodied in the Nationalist leader Francisco Franco, preyed on Madrid and its citizens and that it was imperative to defend the city from this threat. In another photomontage by Heartfield (Image11), featured in a special issue of AIZ on the Spanish Popular Front, Fascism in the form of the Third Reich is represented by a snake decorated with swastikas. The snake is being speared by three men, two of who wear armbands bearing symbols representing the Communist and Social Democratic parties. Throughout history, most notably in the book of Genesis in the Bible, snakes are portrayed as insidious and untrustworthy and so the link with Fascism casts the aspersion on it that it is evil and needs to be stopped. In this photomontage Heartfield exhorts the German resistance to adapt the Popular Front strategy of Spain. Another device employed by Heartfield was hybridization (the surreal blending of elements usually considered incompatible), and is used in Image 12 ‘O Christmas tree in German soil, how bent are thy branches!’ 32. Heartfield uses the technique depending on the viewer’s knowledge of the symbolism of the separate elements for their understanding of the message conveyed when they are merged. Image 9 merges the German-in-origin symbol of Yuletide, the Christmas tree, with the Nazi swastika into a comic hybrid form and employs lyrics from a well-known Christmas carol. In the photomontage we see a wooden stand, made by Heartfield, in which the tree sits with its branches fashioned into the form of a swastika. The tree is artificial and manipulated for the purposes of this staged montage in a technique closely related to Dada and Surrealist transformations of everyday materials. Heartfield used these props to comment on the pro-German and anti-Christian ideology of the Reich Food Minister, Richard-Walther Darré, who, in the decree featured on this photomontage, forbid “as of Christmas 1934 the propagation of the Christian fir tree, an alien intruder, […] on German soil.” Darré developed the “blood and soil” ideology to celebrate the German peasant and the Nordic race and, with the Deutsche Glaubensbewegung (German Faith Movement), a neopagan sect, he advocated making Christmas a pagan solstice festival. The title of the photomontage is a pun on the second line of the carol “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree) in which the trees branches are described as ‘faithful.’ Heartfield has taken the ultimate symbol of the Nazi regime, the swastika (an ancient symbol used in several cultures for over three thousand years which originally represented life, power, strength and good luck), and blended it with the Christmas tree, one of the symbols of a season of “good will to all men.” Words, important symbols in themselves, were often employed to clarify the critical statements made by the images or to heighten their effectiveness. The statement of protest or criticism about certain regimes and important figures within them in Heartfield’s work is cleverly codified in images and the text works as a codebreaker. Both image and text are symbols because both stand for something else and, in Heartfield’s montages, ‘his love of puns, both visual and verbal, […] underscore the impossibility of erecting any clear-cut boundary between word and image.’33 Fragments of text from ready-made sources had also been used in Dada photomontages and Heartfield viewed it as particularly vital: he rarely published an image in AIZ or VI without text and, when he published the montage Bild ohne Worte… (‘Picture without words…’), an image of a peace dove being attacked by a bird of prey, he invited readers to write in with a title, poem or fable to complete the unfinished montage. At the Fotomontage exhibition in Berlin in 1931 Raoul Hausmann, once a member of the Dadaists, described the new technique of photomontage as ‘static film’34 and, for Heartfield, text in his photomontages was the equivalent of a film soundtrack. He used the Bible, songs, proverbs, literature and politicians’ speeches as source material to ‘anchor or enhance the meaning of an image’35 and often re-used certain images with different text according to the circumstances. The use of text, which originated in famous literature and other sources that had proved to have longevity in their popularity and classic 9
status, was consistent with Heartfield’s view that agit-prop (agitation and propaganda) should have both an immediate impact and a long-term political relevance. All of the separate elements of a photomontage work together to convey something about society but the viewer realizes that these elements did not originally belong together. Montage, then, stands for ‘the fragmentation of […] an everyday reality that has suddenly burst into the frame of experience.’36 It is this dismembering of reality that renders the photograph itself visible: the viewer normally does not look at a photograph, instead what a photograph contains, however, photomontage points out the incongruity of the fragments that form part of the whole piece of artwork and they are no longer invisible but bold symbols instead. Roland Barthes states that: ‘The photograph is never anything but an anticipation of “Look”, “See”, “Here it is”; it points a finger at certain vis-à-vis and cannot escape this pure deictic language.’37 The text on a photomontage spells out the propagandist message of the piece and the object in each fragment as well as the fragmentation itself points out the message in images: it is for this reason that photomontage is so successful as propaganda. We assign didactic possibilities to photography, assuming that photographs point to the truth because they are a supposed direct copy of the way events, people and objects appear in real life, and so it is a powerful way of getting people to take on a certain mindset or belief. Indeed, the slogan over the entrance to the John Heartfield room at the prestigious Film und Foto exhibition that opened in 1929 in Stuttgart was, “Use photography as a weapon!”. With the camera’s reputation for producing objective visual information, photomontage was an important weapon in the propaganda battle of the Spanish Civil War, particularly on the Republican side, for boosting the public’s morale, educating them on the events of war and inciting them to support the troops among other aims. During the war, the best way to convey these messages in the public arena of the streets of Spanish cities was on posters. (wondering whether to take out the paragraph on Image 12 because it seems less relevant; would like to include the photomontage done by Josep Renau of Picasso’s Guernica and a photo of the city after it was bombed – this could lead on to discussion of the Spanish Pavilion as a form of propaganda) (5616 words so far) III. ‘Un grito pegado a la pared’ (footnote here?) Use page 63 and 72 of Dawn Ades book.
Introduction: 1. Fundación Pablo Iglesias, Carteles de la guerra 1936-1939 (Madrid: Lunwerg, 2004), p.28 I. The surreal, the symbolic and the sordid 2. John Berger, ‘Understanding a Photograph’ in Selected Essays and Articles: The Look of Things (London: Penguin Books, 1971), p.182. 3. Susan Sontag, On Photography (London, Penguin Books, 1979), p.52. 4. Sontag, p.58. 5. Caroline Brothers, ‘Semiology and the City at War’ in War and Photography: A Cultural History (London: Routledge, 1997), p.116. 6. Brothers, p.115. 7. Brothers, p.112. 8. Brothers, p.115. 9. Brothers, ‘Casualties and the Nature of Photographic Evidence’ in War and Photography: A Cultural History, p.161. 10. Sontag, p.108. 11. Berger, ‘The Political Uses of Photo-montage’ in Selected Essays and Articles: The Look of Things, p.184. 12. Sontag, p.74. 13. Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on photography (London: Vintage Books, 2000), p.27. 14. Brothers, ‘Casualties and the Nature of Photographic Evidence’ in War and Photography: A Cultural History, p.170. 15. Brothers, p. 179. 16. Brothers, p. 179. 17. Brothers, p. 183. 18. Sontag, pp.20-21. 19. Berger, ‘The Political Uses of Photo-montage’ in Selected Essays and Articles: The Look of Things, p.184. II. ‘A provocative dismembering of reality’ (title quote reference is Dawn Ades, Photomontage (London: Thames and Hudson, 1986), pp.12-13.) 20. Ades, p.41. 21. Ades, p.24. 22. Carolyn Burke, Lee Miller: On Both Sides of the Camera (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), p. 88.Ades, p.17. 23. Ades, p.66. 24. Ades, pp.12-13. 25. Berger, p.184. 26. Bertolt Brecht in AIZ 10, number 41 (1931). 27. David Evans, John Heartfield: AIZ/VI 1930-38 (Berlin: Elefanten Press, 1992), p.29. 28. AIZ 13, number 38, 20 September 1934, p.616. 29. Evans, p.252. 30. Evans, p.252. 31. VI 1, number 15, 25 November 1936, p.240. 32. (check place of publication) David Evans and Sylvia Gohl, Photomontage: A Political Weapon, (London: Gordon Fraser, 1987), p.21 33. Evans, p.18 34. (need more info) Raoul Hausmann, Fotomontage, translated in Philips, Photography in the Modern Era, pp.178-81. 35. AIZ 13, number 52, 27 December 1934, p.848. 36. Matthew Teitelbaum (ed.), Montage and Modern Life (Boston: MIT Press, 1992), p.31.
37. Barthes, p.5. III. ‘Un grito pegado a la pared’ Works cited – Ades, Dawn, Photomontage (London: Thames and Hudson, 1986), pp.24, 41, 57. Barthes, Roland, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, trans. by Howard, Richard (London: Vintage Books, 2000), pp.3-4, 82, 85, 87, 96, 115. Berger, John, Selected Essays and Articles: The Look of Things (London: Penguin Books, 1971), p.182, 185. Brihuega, Jaime and Piqueras, Norbert (eds.), Josep Renau 1907-1982: compromiso y cultura (Valencia: Universitat deValència, 2007), p.45. Burke, Carolyn, Lee Miller: On Both Sides of the Camera (London: Bloomsbury, 2006), pp.90-91, 205. Evans, David and Gohl, Sylvia (eds.), Photomontage: A Political Weapon (London: Fraser, 1986), pp.10, 20-21, 27-28, 31, 35. Evans, David, John Heartfield: AIZ/VI 1930-38 (Berlin: Elefanten Press, 1992), pp.9-11, 15-20, 29, 32-38, 280. Guerra de la Vega, Ramón, Madrid 1931-1939: II República y guerra civil (Madrid: Street Art Collection, 1996), p.76. (need to cite English edition and translator?) López Mondejar, Publio, 150 Years of Photography in Spain, (Madrid: Lunwerg Editores, 2000), p.163. (need to cite English edition and translator?) López Mondejar, Publio, Photography in Franco’s Spain, pp.20, 78. Schaber, Irme, and others, eds., Gerda Taro (Göttingen: Steidl, 2007), pp.9-10. Sontag, Susan, On Photography, (London, Penguin Books, 1979), pp.4-6, 15, 19, 51, 109, 154, 156, 163164, 167. Ministerio de Cultura (ed.), Kati Horna: Fotografías de la guerra civil española (1937-1938) (Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura D.L., 1992), p.9. Images Image 1 – Merin, Peter (Oto Bihalji-Merin), Spain between Death and Birth (New York: Dodge, 1938), p. Image 2 – Ministerio de Cultura (ed.), Kati Horna: Fotografías de la guerra civil española (1937-1938) (Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura D.L., 1992), p.88. Image 3 – Ministerio de Cultura (ed.), Kati Horna: Fotografías de la guerra civil española (1937-1938) (Madrid: Ministerio de Cultura D.L., 1992), p.35. Image 4 – Whelan, Richard, This is war! Robert Capa at Work (Göttingen: Steidl, 2007), p.161. Image 5 – Brothers, Caroline, War and Photography: A Cultural History (London: Routledge, 1997), p.177. Image 6 – Brothers, Caroline, War and Photography: A Cultural History (London: Routledge, 1997), p.182. Image 7 - Whelan, Richard, This is war! Robert Capa at Work (Göttingen: Steidl, 2007), p.59. Image 8 – ‘Baskenland’ by John Heartfield, published in VI issue number 17/37, number 22, on 2 June 1937, p.345. Image 9 – ‘The Thousand Year Reich’ by John Heartfield, published in AIZ 13, issue number 39/34, number 38, on 20 September 1934, p.616. Image 10 – ‘Madrid 1936’ by John Heartfield, published in VI 1, issue number 40/36, number 15, on 25 November 1936, p.240. Image 11 – ‘Follow the Spanish Example!’ by John Heartfield, published in AIZ 15, issue number 8/36, number 9 on 27 February 1936, p.144. Image 12 – ‘O Christmas tree in German soil, how bent are thy branches!’ by John Heartfield, published in AIZ 13 issue number 53/34, number 52, on 27 December 1934, p.848.