Art and Architecture, Books for the News

A long-lived icon of public culture

jacket imageAccording to a Reuters article picked up in this morning’s edition of the Guardian, Edith Shain, the nurse who was photographed being kissed by a sailor in Times Square on August 14, 1945, has died at age 91. Yet her VJ Day picture, taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine will no doubt live on as an icon of public culture. Widely recognized, historically significant, and emotionally resonant, such images are never out of the spotlight, appropriated and reappropriated by governments, commercial advertisers, journalists, grassroots advocates, bloggers, and artists, as a means of persuasion and critical reflection. But what makes them so powerful? How do they remain meaningful across generations? What do they expose—and what goes unsaid?
In No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy, Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites provide the definitive study of the iconic photograph as a dynamic form of public art. Their critical analyses of nine individual icons explore the photographs themselves and their subsequent circulation through an astonishing array of media, including stamps, posters, billboards, editorial cartoons, TV shows, Web pages, tattoos, and more. Arguing against the conventional belief that visual images short-circuit rational deliberation and radical critique, Hariman and Lucaites make a bold case for the value of visual imagery in a liberal-democratic society. No Caption Needed is a compelling demonstration of photojournalism’s vital contribution to public life.
Read an excerpt from the book.