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Title: Schools for Seeing: German Photobooks between 1924 and 1937 as Perception Primers and Sites of Knowledge.
Authors: Stoll, Mareike
Advisors: Jennings, Michael W.
Weigel, Sigrid
Contributors: German Department
Keywords: German
perception primer
visual literacy
Subjects: German literature
Art history
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: My dissertation investigates the phenomenon of the photobook in interwar Germany and reconstructs the reasons for its popularity through reference to illustrated newspapers, exhibitions, and bookmaking experiments. Examining a series of photobooks and writings on photography from 1924 to 1937, I argue that the photobook appears against a historical horizon where political warnings of the manipulability of photography proliferate. The photobook arises as a training device that slows down perception, imposes a critical distance, and develops new forms of visual engagement. In the dissertation’s opening chapter, I propose that the photobook in the 1920s contains a theory of photography and a training manual to learn to read photography. The chapter focuses on the elements of the photobook, and on notions of reading it, using Kracauer’s essay “Die Photographie” (1927) as an interpretative horizon. The analysis of Aenne Biermann’s 60 Fotos (1930) allows me to argue for the alphabetization for photography through the photobook. Chapter two contextualizes the concept of alphabetization in children’s books, perception primers, and the form of the atlas. This chapter brings Benjamin’s notion of reading to bear upon interpretations of Blossfeldt’s photobook Urformen der Kunst (1928) and a photographically illustrated picture book from around the same time (1930). The space between the images is explored as crucial part also in Warburg’s Mnemosyne-Atlas (1924-1929). Closely examining the concept of the atlas in terms of notions of objectivity, knowledge production, and a visual training, this chapter traces the question of standpoint and orientation of the beholder towards photography. Chapter three further explores this question and examines notions of landscape photography in relation to abstraction in a photobook entitled Das Watt (German for “mudflats”) from 1937. The photobook in this chapter is viewed in its capacity to disrupt contemporary political, cultural, and aesthetic discourse at the time of publication. Das Watt brings together landscape and abstraction, and critically re-examines, re-negotiates and potentially destabilizes key concepts in Nazi propaganda at the time (Boden, Landschaft and Kunst). My project argues that the photobook—with its page layouts, spaces in between the individual photographs, and photographic sequences—demands an active reading process that in turn has an effect on the beholder. Thus a mobilization is achieved in the act of perception.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:German

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