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The Shadow King


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Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

Created: 09/16/20

Replies: 13

Posted Sep. 16, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2619

Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

The Shadow King includes many narrative descriptions of and questions about the ethicality of war photographs. Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?


Posted Sep. 18, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
janines

Join Date: 11/21/16

Posts: 17

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I think both are equally important to documenting the historical record. What I think drives the purpose for either is more important. As written in the book, the pictures were purely for propaganda purposes not for reporting of the events of a battle as it unfolded. And while the pictures were for propaganda purposes, we can learn from such pictures as to how propaganda adversely affects ways of thinking. I don't think the novel changed my perception of either.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 325

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

As janines indicates, both are important ways to present history. Interestingly, in this book, there are no photographs in the story, only written descriptions of photographs. I'd say, use what's available. Both show aspectstof whatever occasion one is trying to document, and both are legitimate representations. It is important to realize, as well, that both can be manipulated.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ssh

Join Date: 02/04/14

Posts: 29

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I think both photographs and writing are important. Each can provide a unique perspective. But I agree that we need to be aware of propaganda - both can be manipulated. It bothered me that there were only descriptions of photographs in the book, not actual photographs. I have never seen this done before and did not find the descriptions added the same dimension as actual photos.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ireneh

Join Date: 11/22/19

Posts: 29

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

Before photographs could be manipulated as they are in our time, I would have said that they were a more faithful record of history than written records. Early pictures showed the person or object as it was and it was left up to the viewer to respond emotionally to the piture.
We have the depression era photo of a mother in the dust bowl as a single comment on human suffering on a huge scale. We have the photo of a Vietnamese prisoner being shot in the head to speak to us about the horror and immorality of that war and those with whom we fought.
However, we are in an era when we can't tell if a photo has been doctored. This makes pictures less dependable as records of history. On the other hand, the written record, as long as one reads more than one perspective, allows for an extensive view of historical events.
I agree with the other responders that descriptions of photos are a rather odd way to use the visual image to communicate. If words are what you have, then use them for their power. Don't use them to substitute for a concrete picture of an event.


Posted Sep. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Marcia S

Join Date: 02/08/16

Posts: 344

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I think they compliment each other. Each can be used to reinforce the message of the other. I share the concerns that one must be wary of the message presented as the ability to manipulate, both in word and in photo, is so easy to do now. I think we need to be sure and find back-up for both word and photo.


Posted Sep. 20, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
sandra54

Join Date: 05/01/13

Posts: 62

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

Both are important but the pictures are a more pure,raw account of what happened. With writing can contain some bias from the recorder.


Posted Sep. 21, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
phenkat

Join Date: 07/29/11

Posts: 17

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

Think about the Vietnam War...the protests against the war were fueled by the television coverage of it. Now journalists have to be embedded and censored in war zones. Pictures are so much more visceral than words, and more accessible. Nonreaders can learn a lot from a picture. Neither are perfectly truthful...words can be edited and photos photoshopped. But so many iconic photos...Kent State, Agent Orange, Dorothea Lange's migrant workers...


Posted Sep. 22, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
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bookfabulous

Join Date: 08/01/19

Posts: 19

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I do think that each has its own merits. What struck me in this book was how some photographs depicted the horrors of an event (which may be considered a faithful record of a war crime) but then others were meant to humiliate its subjects (as in the case of the photos taken of Hirut and Aster) -- These served no purpose but to reinforce an exotic stereotype regarding African women and to end once and for all their mythical status. However, we also realise that what a photograph captures is just that one moment in time, a moment that does not truly describe what exactly happened before it was taken or what comes straight after it is taken. There is also the idea of what the eye think it sees in a captured shot and what is really happening in a photo that I found fascinating: This was very evident in the photo that was taken of Hirut and Aster in captivity that the photographer captured without their knowledge. He thought he was capturing a quiet contemplative moment between the two women, unbeknown to him that it was the moment that Aster was revealing to Hirut information that was to change their fates. And in a way the photographer at one point realises that his photographs require words for posterity's sake and so ends up documenting the back of them with information he gathers especially for a particular one of Hirut.
I do agree with previous comments that both writing and photographs are important depending that one is cognisant of who is telling the story and whose purpose it is serving.


Posted Sep. 29, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
jenniferk

Join Date: 02/08/20

Posts: 8

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

Fabulous question! As many of the others are saying, I think both are important and that, ideally, they are best used together, in combination. I'm honestly not sure which is a more accurate record of history- history is subjective and is told through the voices of the survivors. Both written words and visuals can overemphasize and place things out of context. Some authors/historians do a better job telling stories through visual art, whereas others excel with written words. How many times have I looked at a picture and have focused on something in the background or have noticed something that I didn't see before? I think the same can be said about written work. Also, I think that all of this can really depend on the audience- I'm a visual learner. Thus, I naturally get so much more learning from an image than I do a paragraph of words. Ironically, if I were to record history, I would do a much better job documenting with written words, not with visual images.

This novelist uses such rich details in her writing, I didn't need pictures. The better the writing, the less I need visual aides.


Posted Sep. 30, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
windellh

Join Date: 11/05/17

Posts: 59

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I agree with sandra54. both photographs and written words can be used to document historical narrative. They can also be used to present a certain biased view of happenings by manipulation.


Posted Oct. 02, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
juliaa

Join Date: 12/03/11

Posts: 238

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I think both are extremely important. As others have already commented, both can be manipulated, but even with manipulation, both help shape the views people have of history. The reaction to a photograph is more immediate and visceral, while the reaction to writing can be more nuanced and thought-provoking. The bottom line is that what we come to know of history is shaped by both the visual record and the written record.


Posted Oct. 15, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
audrey1

Join Date: 09/02/13

Posts: 38

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

It depends on who read the accounts and saw the photographs. The picture people in Italy and G ermany and probably in Spain, since Franco was a fellow fascist got an overly optimistic picture of how the war was going. The people left behind in these countries did not want to believe their loved ones were fighting and dying for a vain glorious invasion. Eventually the people left behind begin to see t he effects of the war in their own country-- inflation, scarceness of food and other goods. More and more average non political men being conscripted.


Posted Oct. 20, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ashleighp

Join Date: 09/15/20

Posts: 12

RE: Which do you think is a more faithful record of historical experience, photographs or writing? How does the novel influence your feelings about this choice?

I feel a photograph provides a few things for different types of people seeing it. You have people with very little context that can draw vast conclusions about a situation from just seeing the photo. You have people who lived and experienced the events surrounding the photo which can evoke strong memory and emotions for those people. And then you have people who are given context in the way of oral or written words and then have photos to paint the picture clearer and solidify the imagery from the stories they are told. I think this novel shows that beautifully. Events are occurring and the space, expression and even placement of a description of a photograph just amplifies the recollection in a way that people can begin to almost feel and put themselves in that time. Together, the story and event itself are projected in a more 360 view which can allow for greater empathy and understanding about an experience you were not a part of or maybe can not fathom.


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