We look at three photographs, each made at a time of profound crisis, in order to tease out notions of proximity. Vision gives us proximity at a distance. Photographs may give us a similar proximity. Human vision depends on experience built up from individual events of seeing. Can a photograph made in a fraction of a second by someone else at some other time and some other place provide anything more than data about some surfaces in front of the lens? Can words and other images from the photographers enhance the viewer’s proximity to the original? Can we make use of the photographers’ accounts of their proximities for enhancing the understanding of individual viewers? We examine various aspects of proximity and photography in the context of images of U.S. presidents in times of crises – mechanical and conceptual restraints on photographic representation, external sources of contextualizing information, forms of proximity of the photographers to the presidents, and the strengths and weaknesses of existing metadata.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)




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