Through Amateur Eyes By Frances Guerin

1075 words - 5 pages

Frances Guerin explores the ideas and thoughts of Nazism by dissecting and analyzing photography and film in Nazi Germany in her book, Through Amateur Eyes. Guerin digs for deeper and more distinct interpretations of the amateur art and searches for ways that the viewer can better understand Germans involved in the Nazi party. The photos and moving images addressed are taken by German officers, soldiers, and civilians, Nazis and non-Nazis, during World War II (pg. xiii). Guerin sees them first and foremost as amateur images, then from there begins to try to understand the content, perspective and meaning of the image. “… the content—often violent crimes, propagandistic manipulations, or, at best, skewed realities—is one of the number of elements that informs a denser, more nuanced understanding of the images…” (pg. xiv). Guerin, while not supporting the content nor the photographers of the images, still looks to redeem the images not as art but as support to keeping the twentieth century alive.
In chapter one, “Witnessing from a Distance, Remembering from Afar,” Guerin describes how she defines an Amateur photographer. Guerin shares, “They were soldier, officers, civilians, or elite Nazis who pursued an interest in the still an/or moving image…” (pg. 20). She then goes on the explain, although their images are well taken and properly exposed, she defines them as amateurs because none of the images were produced for commercial or official use. Another way she defines an amateur photograph is by the absence of the photographer or author. After giving her definitions of an amateur, Guerin then states the significance of the amateur artists during this time. She states the amateurs photographers fill in historical gaps and shed light on amateur photography and film during that time.
In chapter two, “On the Eastern front with the German Army,” Guerin jumps into the photography taken by German soldiers on duty, at rest and at play during the war. “The hundreds of thousands of photographs taken on the Eastern Front include some of the most difficult of the World War II visual documents for the historian to reckon with.” (pg. 37) However, along with these horrible images are a large collection of behind the scenes photographs of Germans acting as normal humans. For example: “Figure 4. Soldiers playing card and relaxing, circa 1941,” Taken by Jurgen Wobbeking (pg. 66). This photograph displays three German soldiers playing cards next to their large artillery weapons. The men look comfortable, happy and relaxed with their shirts off and large smiles. While viewing this image and other similar images, one could easily see how this new modern way of life was excepted and normal.
Chapter three, “The Privilege and Possibility of Color,” Guerin talks about the introduction to color prints and how some of the most extraordinary photographs from World War II were those taken in color (pg. 93). She explains how now many officers and soldiers now...

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