Dark Lens: Imaging Germany, 1945
The ruins of war have long held the power to stupefy and appall. Can such ruins ever be persuasively depicted and comprehended? Can images of them force us to identify with the suffering of the enemy and raise uncomfortable questions about forgiveness and revenge?
Françoise Meltzer explores those questions in Dark Lens, which uses the images of war ruins in Nazi Germany to investigate problems of aestheticization, the representation of catastrophe, and the targeting of civilians in war. Through texts that give accounts of bombed-out towns in Germany in the last years of the war, painters’ attempts to depict the destruction, and her own mother’s photographs taken in Berlin and other cities in 1945, Meltzer asks if any medium offers a direct experience of war ruins for the viewer. Ultimately, she concludes that while the viewer cannot help reimaging the devastation through the lenses of history, aestheticization, or voyeurism, these images at least allow us to approach the reality of ruins and grasp the larger issue of targeting civilians in modern warfare for what it is. Refreshingly accessible and deeply personal, Dark Lens is a compelling look at the role images play in constructing memories of war.
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