Selective strife

By CHRIS THOMPSON  |  April 19, 2006

This insight opens up a critical distance between seeing what we are meant to see in an exhibition, and seeing what we actually see as part of the collective that coheres around the event of the exhibition.

In its fullness of expert capturings of the drama of social and political life over the past half-century, framing that drama in highly charged micro-portraits of the various known and unknown characters and events that have become emblematic of it, “In Our Time” forces us to see the past in relation to the movies that have been and will increasingly be made about it.

This is the paradox of the photojournalistic image’s ability to nail down the brute-fact-ness of the world it records: the more real the reality it portrays, the more poetic the image’s impact upon us, and the more artificial its effects become. Thus though we can always imagine even the most “authentic” moment as fodder for films to come, yet we have greater and greater difficulty in understanding our role as selective agents in the world that cinema is making out of the present.

“In Our Time: The World as Seen By Magnum Photographers” | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland | through June 4 | lecture by James Nachtwey on June 19, 6:30 pm | 207.775.6148

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