Photography and Drawing
watercolor on paper, Whitney Museum of American Art)
Among the persistent themes in photography criticism is that photographs too often aestheticize suffering. Two things bother me about this theme.
First, photographs don't do anything. People - photographers, editors, curators, protesters, politicians, propagandists, advertisers, etc. - do things with photographs. In this instance it is important to re-frame the tacit question ~ What is objectionable or commendable about the way a given photographer (or anyone else) uses beauty in depicting this or that instance of pain or suffering? Why?
Second, why is the use of beauty problematic in photography when it seems less so (or at least is less frequently attacked) in other art forms? Imagine a photograph of a white mob tormenting and preparing to lynch a young black man that was as stylized as Cadmus's drawing.