the shadow history of photography

Lauren Mitchell at Viz points to Square America, which is a gallery of vintage photographs found and purchased at garage sales and flea markets. The site’s developer, Nicholas Osborn, writes: "Square America is a site dedicated to preserving and displaying vintage snapshots from the first 3/4s of the 20th Century. Not only do these photographs contain a wealth of primary source information on how life was lived they also constitute a shadow history of photography, one too often ignored by museums and art galleries." I really like that phrase, "the shadow history of photography."

One of the more striking exhibits in the Square Photography gallery is called "What Was On (November 1963)." What Was On is a series of 140 photographs taken by Martin Johnson of CBS’s coverage of the JFK assassination and funeral. Osborn presents 33 of the 140 images—each of which essentially the 1960s version of contemporary screen shots, providing a window into the events of the day and the medium being used to present those events. Consider these images:

CBS News Bulletin Nov 1963 shot by Martin Johnson from Square America

CBS's coverage of JFK assisination shot by Martin Johnson posted at Square America

CBS's coverage of the JFK assassination witness reactions shot by Martin Johnson posted at Square America

CBS's coverage of events surrounding JFK's assassination photograph of Lee Harvey Oswold  by Martin Johnson posted at Square America

In this short sequence, we see the announcement of the special event, the representation of the event that took place, witness reaction to the event, and a multimedia presentation in which the newscaster points to an image of the person who was said to have perpetrated the event and the was subsequently assassinated. Consider these screen shots that I captured on September 11 within two hours of the terrorist attack:

screen shot of MSNBC captured on September 11, 2001, published at 1120am

screen shot of CNN home page on Sept 11, 2001, no time given when it was published

They both tend to follow a similar sequence as represented in Martin Johnson’s photographs. Both MCNBC and CNN announce that there is Breaking News. MSNBC shows an image of the event and points to a link for witness reaction. CNN shows an image of witness reaction and points to a link for a chronology of the event, which will show images (and, later, video). They both point to events surrounding the attacks. By 11:35pm, CNN fully incorporated each of these representations into the home page:

screen shot of CNN home page captured on Sept 11, 2001 at 1135 pm

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