Ian Crouch talks to Susie Linfield about her new book on photography, “The Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence”:
There’s a whole school of criticism that argues that we shouldn’t look at photographs that were taken by Nazis: that these are photographs taken by the murderers, that the photographs themselves were meant to humiliate the victims, that they represent exploitation and cruelty. And, of course, all this is true. But photographs often say things that their makers do not intend, and some of these Nazi photographs reveal the suffering of the victims in very powerful and evocative ways.
They also reveal the cruelty of the perpetrators, which is something that I think we should look at. We shouldn’t be afraid that in looking at an exploitative photograph, we become the criminals: that’s a kind of magical thinking.