History in the Making
- Cet article est une traduction de :
- L’histoire en train de se faire
In her essay ‘Good Fences Make Good Neighbors,’ Sally Stein frames American photomontage between the wars as a marginal and tentative practice, offset by a small number of books from the early 1930s. Stein cites Simon and Schuster’s 1935 publication Eyes on the World as one such anomaly. However, closer consideration of Eyes on the World reveals 296 pages of graphically dense photomontage, featuring photographs, film stills, newspaper clippings, charts, graphs, and cartoons culled from over 150 credited sources and reproduced as a series of intricately assembled full-bleed spreads. In a publisher’s note on the last page, Schuster hints that, if successful, the book might go serial on an annual basis, and earlier production notes from Columbia’s archive reveal his plans for a second edition, translated editions, subsequent special editions, and newspaper syndication. If photomontage never rooted in the United States as a literal artistic practice, Eyes on the World suggests that its spirit charged the air in other ways. My goal here is to position Schuster’s book as the conscious reformulation of a very real montage aesthetic pervasive in American culture at the time.
Notes de l’auteur
This paper has been adapted from an earlier version prepared for a seminar on twentieth-century photomontage led by Maria Antonella Pelizzari at Hunter College of the City University of New York, Spring 2010, and has benefited greatly from her commentary, expertise, and enthusiasm.
- 1 Max Lincoln Schuster, typewritten statement, 23 May 1936, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers, Box 155, Rar (...)
- 2 For an account of Schuster’s life and neuroses, see Geoffrey T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Prof (...)
1On May 23, 1936, one year and three days after sending his photo book Eyes on the World to press, publisher Max Lincoln Schuster drafted a fourteen-page letter he would never send. Addressed only to ‘An Unknown Mortal of 2936 A.D.,’ his missive begins, ‘This letter is an impertinence, a defiance, an arrogance flung in the face of time.’1 The note was meant to accompany a handful of publications, tear sheets, and clippings Schuster had gathered, including the front matter from Eyes on the World; all were to be sealed in a copper box, encased in concrete, and laid down as the cornerstone of his estate’s seventy-foot library in Sea Cliff, Long Island.2 Although the time capsule never found its way into solid cement, it was preserved for posterity through its donation, two years after his death in 1970, to Columbia University.
- 3 M.L. Schuster, typewritten statement, 23 May 1936, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 155.
- 4 See ‘The World in the Camera’s Eye: An Uncommonly Effective Pictorial Record of Recent History. Eye (...)
2Schuster’s wish – that the letter be ‘deciphered by some surprised and bewildered excavator or research worker one thousand years from now’ – may yet be realized, but until then, Eyes on the World stands as the capstone of his time-bending legacy.3 This book of photomontage was conceived, researched, and edited by Schuster as a kind of pet project within the larger framework of his New York–based publishing company, Simon and Schuster, and either by spectacular coincidence or a remarkable knack for personal mythology, its first mention in Schuster’s archived office memoranda appears exactly two years earlier, on May 23, 1934, a full year before final forms made it to press and before the resulting hardcover hit stores in June of 1935.4
3The scale of Schuster’s ambition declares itself on the book’s cover, where the planet earth appears as a floating orb seen from space. Surrounding typographical and pictorial elements take the form of cosmic debris, and the fragmented focus lens of a camera encircles the earth like a celestial ring. The disembodied head of a cameraman rakes at a 45-degree-angle above, camera pointed outward, while a target line connects the lens of his apparatus to a focal point on the earth, where we are imagined to be. The jarring dissociative effect is that even as we are locked into the camera’s gaze, we see ourselves being seen. This opening montage succinctly collapses notions of time and space, of two and three dimensions, and of indexical reproduction and intentional reassemblage, all while literally illustrating the book’s title and situating it within the established iconography of the publishing industry – and this is just to start.
- 5 M.L. Schuster, notes from London, 23 May 1934 (office memo), Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), (...)
4The subsequent 296 pages reveal a work of graphically dense photomontage, featuring photographs, film stills, newspaper clippings, charts, graphs, and cartoons culled from over 150 credited sources and reproduced as a series of intricately assembled, full-bleed spreads. Divided into seven thematic and chronologically sequenced chapters, Schuster’s book documents the events of its day via mass media ephemera, with a focus on political movements, economic trends, international affairs, and American popular culture. In a publisher’s note on the last page, Schuster hints that, if successful, the book might go serial on an annual basis, and earlier production notes reveal his plans for a second edition, translated editions, subsequent special editions, newspaper syndication, and ‘then later (with the year-book as a sample of what [could] be done, to inspire photographers, lay-out-men, and news-companies) a monthly, weekly, or fortnightly magazine.’5
5These production notes, along with personal and professional correspondence, office memos and files, press clippings, and advertisements, comprise the Max Lincoln Schuster Papers, acquired by Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library in six installments between 1971 and 1988. The collection is divided between 300 boxes containing over 80,000 unique documents, many of which remain uncatalogued. Nevertheless, this contained disorder is only a dusty veil for rich insights offered into Schuster’s methodology as a publisher and his evolving relationship with photography and photomontage between the wars.
- 6 Stein notes that ‘[i]f anything, photomontage in the U.S. seems to have leapfrogged the left and ca (...)
- 7 Andrea Nelson, ‘Flickering Histories: Mass Media Photobooks from the 1930s,’ Cahier 1, no. 1 (2009) (...)
6In her own consideration of American photomontage between the wars, Sally Stein cites Schuster’s book as part of a small and notable, but ultimately short-lived cluster of publications from the early 1930s that incorporated the technique into their visual vocabularies. In Stein’s discussion, photomontage in the United States is a marginalized practice, occasionally used to register political and social uncertainty but largely left unexplored.6 Andrea Nelson has also located Eyes on the World within the context of American mass media photo books, which ‘appear to be nothing more than a passing trend, a flicker within the history of photography.’7 At the time of its production, however, Schuster’s book positioned American photomontage not merely as a viable pictorial technique but as the ultimate vehicle for historical documentation. Given the tentative status of such publications as established by Stein and Nelson, how do we account for Schuster’s apparent belief in 1934 that photomontage was poised to become a globally syndicated mode of visual communication?
7In short, how do we account for this book, which explicitly takes aim at a mass audience? If photomontage never rooted in the United States as a literal artistic practice, Eyes on the World suggests that its spirit charged the air in other ways. My goal here is to position Schuster’s book not as a visually intriguing oddity but as the conscious reformulation of a very real montage aesthetic pervasive in American culture at the time. I do this by tracing the publisher’s efforts back to a broad network of conceptual and artistic models, including his own educational and professional backgrounds and an escalating series of creative projects he undertook between the years 1931 and 1933. More specifically, I consider the ways in which Schuster’s work was informed by alternative modes of perception proposed by foreign mass media, American newsreels, and American literature of the time.
- 8 Siegfried Kracauer and Thomas Levin (translator), ‘Photography,’ Critical Inquiry 19, no. 3 (1993): (...)
- 9 ‘By the dynamic arrangement of such pulsating source-material, with an eye to historical perspectiv (...)
8In the book’s introduction, Schuster states his aim as two-fold. First, he vows ‘to provide a photographic record of history-in-the-making for the entire year 1934 and the first part of 1935, and … to suggest in some measure the backgrounds and source-material for 1936 and the years to follow.’ His second goal lies in the execution of his first: ‘Not only the “happenings” of our time … but the deeper sub-surface forces must be disclosed in such a photographic record, if it is to outlive today’s paper or next week’s magazine.’ This, he claims, will be achieved via the creative assemblage of source material. Schuster’s words are simply expressed, but they echo the sentiments of cultural critic Siegfried Kracauer, who frankly called photography the ‘go-for-broke game of history.’8 In his own text, Schuster seems attuned to the inherent dangers of the photographic medium, offering photomontage as a means to ‘photograph’ the historically intangible and to ‘pictorialize states of mind and emotions.’ 9
- 10 ‘“Die Photographie” was first published in the Frankfurter Zeitung, 28 Oct. 1927. It was first repr (...)
- 11 Reminiscences of Max Lincoln Schuster (April 2, 1956), p. 45, in the Columbia University Oral Histo (...)
- 12 Ibid., 21.
- 13 Ibid., 21 and 25–26.
- 14 M.L. Schuster, letter to Dick Simon, 27 March 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
9That said, where did Schuster’s urgent and abstract desire originate? Probably not with Kracauer, whose essay on photography was published in an October 1927 issue of the left-wing newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung but would not be published again until 1963.10 Schuster’s stated aim engages Kracauer’s text to an uncanny degree, but we might locate his objectives more concretely within the aftermath of the First World War, which arrived precisely as he embarked on a career in professional journalism. Schuster was too young to enlist for active duty when the time came. Nevertheless personal correspondence documents his distress as classmates and colleagues shipped off to war, and it would be difficult to overestimate the impact of this experience on his subsequent worldview.11 Matriculating to Columbia University’s newly formed School of Journalism in 1913 as a member of its inaugural class, Schuster later recalled that ‘[t]he whole thing had an aura of drama and humanitarian crusades.’12 Most of his classmates were self-identified liberals, and the program itself was contentious, representing an unprecedented attempt to redefine journalism within an institutional framework.13 Nevertheless, Schuster was committed to the field, and after graduating in 1917 he worked for the decidedly progressive New Republic and for the United Press in Washington while serving as a correspondent and contributor for publications along the east coast.14
- 15 G.T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature, Part 1’ (note 2), 23.
- 16 Reminiscences of Max Lincoln Schuster (note 11), 57–58 and 63–64 in CUOHROC.
- 17 Ibid., 106 and 110.
10When Schuster moved into publishing with his business partner Richard Simon in 1924, he seemed determined to retain certain aspects of his journalistic practice, adopting a notorious article-clipping habit that verged on neurosis.15 Simon and Schuster’s first joint project was a book of crossword puzzles – a popular newspaper phenomenon and a neatly symbolic gateway book for a newspaperman making his way in the publishing industry.16 In 1927, Schuster began designing and running his own newspaper ads for the company, adopting a mimetic column format signed with the slogan ‘From Inner Sanctum’ – a calculated reference to the insider jargon of his journalism days.17
- 18 Ibid., 58.
- 19 Ibid., 69.
- 20 G.T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature, Part 1’ (note 2), 23.
11This ethos manifested itself in less tangible ways, and the populist appeal of Simon and Schuster’s crossword puzzle book is an apt metaphor for the value system supporting their enterprise as a whole. The pair had come together based on a mutual ambition to blow open the elitist doors of the publishing industry with a program of affordable books catering to the general public; Schuster conceived of it in distinctly political terms as an ‘insurgent movement.’18 Their fundamental concern was ‘not to wait for manuscripts to come in, but to get ideas for books, and to marry the right idea and the right author, to go to authors and say, “Here is a need to be met.”’19 Such a business model was driven by popular demand and solidly informed by the model of story generation and assignment that Schuster had learned in school.20
- 21 M.L. Schuster, Eyes on the World (note 9), 296.
12Journalistic practice circa 1917 was thus an emergent and experimental form, established on the rocky emotional and political terrain of a freshly devastating world war. Perhaps Schuster’s early emotional investment in the profession is what allowed him to articulate its inadequacies so clearly in the pages of Eyes on the World, where he also attempted to offer a corrective model. His early professional experience also shaped his attachment to the newspaper layout as a visual trope transposable onto other contexts, an idea that he would explore more fully through a series of three books published between 1931 and 1933. These publications marked the beginning of Schuster’s determined exploration of a ‘pictorial record of history-in-the-making [that] is frankly an experiment with a new technique’ that would culminate in Eyes on the World.21
- 22 For example, Bourke-White writes, ‘In our country sympathy for Soviet Russia exists among the intel (...)
- 23 In fact, Bourke-White would go on to write the review of Eyes on the World that appeared in the Nat (...)
13In 1931, Simon and Schuster released the first book in this conceptual triptych, Margaret Bourke-White’s travel chronicle Eyes on Russia. The project was initiated by the photographer but financed at least in part by Fortune magazine, where she worked at the time. Substantial but not exhaustive, the book conveys a sympathetic view of the Russian proletariat while critiquing the apathy of the American labor class.22 Offering a consideration of Russian industrial labor through her characteristic precisionist imagery, Bourke-White nevertheless relies on diaristic commentary to communicate the bulk of her political message: the book’s twenty-three chapters are only sparsely illustrated by forty sepia duotone plates. Although Schuster’s politics were in line with those of his photographer and correspondence between the two indicates a warm and lasting friendship, his involvement in the book’s layout is unclear; perhaps the stark formal differences of his subsequent photo books point to his frustration with the limited expressive possibilities of Bourke-White’s rigid presentational method.23
- 24 S. Stein, ‘“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”’ (note 6), 155.
- 25 Charles Cross and Norman Thomas (introduction), A Picture of America: The Photography of America – (...)
- 26 The last headline reads: ‘The Picture Darkens: The picture draws to a close. The eye of the camera (...)
14Charles Cross’s A Picture of America, from 1932, marked Schuster’s second photo book of the period, but unlike Eyes on Russia, it incorporates photomontage as a vibrant pictorial technique. Stein notes that Cross’s photomontage employs ‘soft vignetting’ to mediate its subversive potential.24 More pertinent to our consideration here is the book’s dynamic, newspaper-inspired graphic sensibility, which the introduction describes as ‘ripped out of the chaotic album of American life, and provided with the bare bones of explanation … [to] light up the path to something better.’25 Despite this claim, the book’s intricate web of images, charts, and graphs leans heavily on passages of interpretive text to construct its overall meaning, although a unified camera motif connects word and image from the book’s first illustration to its last foreboding headline.26 Again, the nature of Schuster’s involvement with Cross’s layout remains to be determined, but the book bristles with the same themes igniting the pages of Eyes on the World: the newspaper as primary source material, the camera as the apparatus enabling perception and comprehension of current events, and the subtler conflation of the still and moving image – these are the threads woven into Schuster’s own publication three years down the line.
- 27 Reminiscences of Max Lincoln Schuster (note 11), 67 in CUOHROC.
- 28 Laurence Stallings, The First World War: A Photographic History, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1933 (...)
- 29 M.L. Schuster, letter to Dick Simon, 27 March 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
- 30 Ibid.
- 31 Time clipping, 19 November 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 131.
- 32 Time clipping, 31 July 1933, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 131.
15In 1933, Simon and Schuster published Laurence Stallings’s The First World War: A Photographic History. Schuster and Stallings had worked together on staff at the World in earlier days.27 By 1933, Stallings was an established playwright, a war veteran, and an amputee.In marked contrast to Picture of America, The First World War presents itself within the literary framework of the Lost Generation as an unbiased compilation of war photographs that offers only ‘the camera record of chaos.’28 Nevertheless, the layout emphasizes clarity over disorder, tending toward double-page spreads that juxtapose photographs vertically on a page or incorporate only modest amounts of photomontage and image overlap. Snippets of newspaper headlines are occasionally inserted onto larger spreads, but usually as isolated compositional elements that remain circumscribed within black borders. Each spread is anchored by Stallings’s terse captioning, which appears beneath images in bold sans serif font, and quotes from literary sources such as Shakespeare, Hemingway, and Wilfred Owen, to name a few. By the time it went to press, The First World War had been in production for three years, and Schuster claimed to have worked extensively on the layout through a series of ‘day-and-night’ sessions with the artist Otto Kurth, ultimately delivering the finished manuscript to Stallings for approval.29 The publisher’s emotional investment in the project reveals itself in a heartfelt foreword, which competes awkwardly with Stallings’s own introduction at the front of the book. Writing to Simon shortly after the book’s layout was completed, Schuster offered: ‘It is true Stallings worked on the book for only about eight hours but they were magnificent hours,’ before finally concluding, ‘It is hard to draw the line.’30 Matters of real or perceived authorship aside, the book was an unmitigated success, garnering such positive reviews that it was adapted into an eight-chapter newsreel-style film one year later, also received to great acclaim.31 Critical praise hinged on acknowledgements of the book’s unique historical perspective, and one review in Time observed: ‘Not history as the historian writes it but as every veteran remembers it.’32
16Here, then, I suggest that we can attribute Schuster’s growing certainty in photography’s expressive potential to the escalating success of the three photo book projects he undertook between 1931 and 1933; similarly, we can attribute his growing confidence as a photo editor to the increasingly authoritative role he assumed in the conceptualization and production of each book. The commercial success each project delivered confirmed the photo book as a powerful tool with mass appeal, and perhaps this accounted for Schuster’s certainty in 1934 that his own project had the potential to reach such ecstatic heights.
- 33 In Barthes’s terms, the photographic image carries three messages: linguistic, coded iconic, and no (...)
17Significantly, Schuster retained Otto Kurth on staff for Eyes on the World, and notable formal similarities link the two books. Like The First World War, Eyes on the World favors newspaper clippings as a pictorial element but multiplies their usage to a hallucinatory degree. Clippings become both picture and text, and this ambiguity renders them vulnerable, as it shifts our attention from their linguistic content to their status as objects – what Barthes might call a message without a code.33 Over the course of the book, juxtaposed headlines corroborate and contradict one another, just as they corroborate and contradict the photographic images they accompany – we become less concerned with their content or truth-value than with their status as relics of material culture. In this way, Schuster pointedly recontextualizes newspaper reportage itself as a historical phenomenon, all the while using his meta-commentary as convenient justification to ransack journalism’s visual conventions for his own expressive ends.
- 34 In a letter to Simon, Schuster states that the ‘Camera Eye’ inscription refers to war photographers (...)
- 35 Michael Gold, ‘The Education of John Dos Passos,’ The English Journal 22, no. 2 (February 1933), 96 (...)
18The news headline as a dominant visual motif might also be linked to a distinctive stylistic movement that had emerged within the literary community at the time, marked by the use of fragmented, stream-of-consciousness narratives that conveyed perception as overwhelming and simultaneous – here we might think of Joyce, Faulkner, Hemingway. We might also think of Stallings, or of Schuster, who in his capacity as a left-wing intellectual and book publisher would have been thoroughly steeped in these developments. As a case in point, Stallings and Schuster’s 1933 book is inscribed to ‘The Camera Eye,’ and while the phrase is tightly coiled under the weight of popular usage and allusions to the Soviet Kino-Eye, to the 1929 publication Foto-Auge, and in Schuster’s words to ‘the known and unknown photographers of the war,’ it also resonates with an expressive montage-like technique that had gained notoriety through the work of respected author John Dos Passos.34 Dos Passos – who had briefly served on the editorial board of the left-wing publication the New Masses – had coined the term ‘Camera Eye’ as a structural device in his 1930 publication The 42nd Parallel, where chapters alternate between regurgitative, headline-spewing ‘Newsreel’ sections and ‘Camera Eye’ sections comprising free-flowing concatenations of text. Critics considered Dos Passos’s fractured technique to be on a par with the mind-bending babble of Ulysses in its capacity to express, as one writer put it, the Communist hope.35 Dos Passos’s follow-up effort to The 42nd Parallel was published in 1932 and was eventually followed by a third. With the first installment in this trilogy released the same year Stallings’s book went into production and the second, one year before its release, I suggest that the ‘Camera Eye’ is not an interpretive chain between The First World War and John Dos Passos – references to the phrase are too numerous to vindicate any one reading – but merely an associative link demonstrating the intellectual currency of Dos Passos’s aggressive recycling of news industry waste into a montage aesthetic. Schuster – publisher and neurotic newspaper clipper extraordinaire – must have had some awareness of and sympathy for Dos Passos’s fragmentation of mass media detritus at the service of a more deeply rooted sense of personal and social fragmentation.
19Elsewhere, Eyes on the World draws more directly from models of photomontage established by the European avant-garde, or simply reproduces them. Questions of authorship are secondary to our consideration here, but it is significant that Schuster sourced much of his material from an American photo agency specializing in Soviet material, Sovfoto. Take, for instance, a spread addressing Russia’s second Five-Year Plan. On the left page, a ticking clock – itself an index of passing time – is sliced into irregular wedges of photographs that depict the proletariat in the service of the state. Communal exercise, factory work, military maneuvers – these images illustrate the assortment of activities intended to occupy the five-year period of reform. Newspaper clippings dispersed around the face of the clock (likely inserted by Schuster’s team) detail the plan’s agenda but also illustrate its conflicting portrayal at the hands of the media. The montage suggests that it will take time for the five-year plan to be achieved, but also that the plan’s ultimate success or failure will only reveal itself in time. On the spread’s right page, a cover of USSR in Construction is reproduced in its entirety and displays two towering industrial stacks seen from the sharp perspective of constructivism. Taken together, these two pages tell us more about Russia’s tendency toward self-representation than Stalin’s regime, just as the newspaper headlines tell us more about journalistic practice than current events. Thus, by using Soviet photography and photomontage to describe Soviet events, Schuster informs our viewing with cultural context.
20Schuster’s communist sympathies should at this point be clear, but it is also significant that after publishing Bourke-White’s 1931 epic, Simon and Schuster released translations of Leon Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution and Sergei Tretiakov’s A Chinese Testament (in 1932 and 1934, respectively). Soviet visual techniques permeate Schuster’s layout in other ways, too, occasionally through reference to avant-garde techniques like double-exposure, but also through the selection of straight photographs in the style of constructivism. Take, for instance, the full-page photographic portrait of the Samurai, or the Japanese School Boy and Japanese School Girl, which vividly evoke Rodchenko’s Pioneer Boy and Pioneer Girl. Even the table of contents at the front of the book appears to allude to the Soviet Kino-Eye, its vertical swatches of montage explosively scattering cameramen in the tradition of Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera.
- 36 While the original 35 mm newsreel footage from The March of Time is currently under restoration by (...)
21If these dynamically arranged movie cameras make reference to Soviet cinema and link Schuster’s formal montage practice to the Russian avant-garde, they also allude to the American newsreel phenomenon that had taken root by 1935. The layouts in Schuster’s book manage to play off the structural concept of the newsreel while adapting it to book format – as noted, Schuster had already seen Stallings’ book make the transition from page to screen, had seen the breakdown of medium-specific narrative and structural devices. In February of 1935, the massively popular radio emission The March of Time was also reformatted as a newsreel, shifting cultural trends in reportage along with it.36 Schuster wasted no time in licensing film clippings from the company, along with five other newsreel operations, to provide content for his book. Poetically, the phrase ‘march of time’ peppers Schuster’s personal and professional writing from the period, usually as an expression of his desire for temporal control over his reader. In Eyes on the World, Schuster employs the phrase to suggest that the viewer should read the book chronologically, from start to finish, thus implicitly locating the book’s meaning in its montage. By dividing the book into thematic chapters, Schuster likewise taps into structural modes resonant with the film-going public, and black pages stamped with an original Eyes on the World logo – a globe, of course – head off each chapter like blank film at the start of a reel, or like the pregnant pause of a cut between scenes.
22Schuster’s page layouts incorporate serial formats that reference popular magazine layouts of the time while simultaneously alluding to film. On one page, a six-panel grid presents a Muybridgean sequence of Mussolini mid-speech, the image quality compromised by the speaker’s flurry of gesticulation. Another page features a vertically stacked sequence of President Roosevelt signing bills at his desk. At first glance, the series seems continuous, but closer inspection reveals the president’s somber garb to vary between frames, with a shifting assortment of bodies situated around him. To the right, a series of newspaper clippings details four recent pieces of such legislation, and a ballpoint pen doused in fresh ink spans their width, nearly quivering with the fatigue of so many successive endorsements. A facsimile of the president’s signature is scrawled below, as though he has just signed off on the photomontage itself. This manipulative usage of the serial image manages to give the impression of chronological time while alluding to the inherent ability of film to juxtapose disparate moments and unite them into a cohesive narrative. Thus we not only learn of the president’s prodigious law-making activity by seeing him in continuous action, but we also come to feel the weight of his determination through the implied repetition of this action.
- 37 M.L. Schuster, Eyes on the World (note 9), 286.
23European photomontage, newsreels, magazines, newspapers, photo book layouts, and overarching ideas of fragmented perception as embodied by contemporary literature – Schuster’s book is informed by all of these sources. As suggested in the introduction, form is also a kind of historical content, and Schuster’s intention was to show what was seen but also to provide the context to understand how it was seen: his conception of montage was as much a pastiche of perceptual modes as of images. Toward the end of the book, one quiet spread details the gloriously banal daily schedule of ‘the average man.’ A caption reads: ‘The morning shower is virtually obligatory in the life of the average American. 7:55 to 8:00 AM are the minutes sacred to this rite.’37
- 38 G.T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature, Part 1’ (note 2), 28.
24If Schuster’s book represented a conceptual coup, it was one compromised by its commercial failure. Although it was praised in the New York Times and the Nation, Eyes on the World simply could not move itself off the shelves, selling a scant 5,000 copies over the course of four years.38 Schuster undertook the project because he envisioned it meeting a general public need; few among this public proved willing, however, to spend the requisite $3.75 on a bound collection of headlines they had most likely already read.
25Given the program of photo books leading up to Eyes on the World and the dearth of such publications after its flop, Schuster’s time capsule, assembled exactly one year later, seems like a ceremonial death burial, a last effort to realize but also to put to rest the historical objectives outlined in his introduction.
26Here we might think of Kracauer one last time:
- 39 S. Kracauer and T. Levin (translator), ‘Photography’ (note 8), 432.
27‘The aim of the illustrated newspaper is the complete reproduction of the world accessible to the photographic apparatus … Never before has an age been so informed about itself … Never before has a period known so little about itself … The contiguity of these images systematically excludes their contextual framework available to the consciousness.’39
- 40 M.L. Schuster, handwritten office memo, Tuesday, 29 May 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), (...)
28This painfully insightful analysis offers a useful – and contemporaneous – lens through which to consider the dizzying economy of Schuster’s original distribution model for Eyes on the World: poring over domestic and international newspapers and magazines, obsessively clipping and assembling material as he saw fit, Schuster would subsequently compile an annual publication of photomontage that would then be marketed back to the very same media outlets from which it had been sourced. Here, Schuster’s conception of Eyes on the World is revealed not as a marketable brand but as a perceptual mode – one capable of infiltrating and even supplanting the inferior models from which it was drawn. As Schuster breathlessly wrote in a 1934 letter to colleagues, ‘It’s all here, crying for our sort of presentation. The papers can’t tell the truth. It’s our big chance. Oh wretched mortals, open up Your Eyes.’40
1 Max Lincoln Schuster, typewritten statement, 23 May 1936, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers, Box 155, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University in the City of New York.
2 For an account of Schuster’s life and neuroses, see Geoffrey T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature,’ New Yorker, Part 1, September 30, 1939: 22–28; Part 2, October 7, 1939: 24–30; Part 3, October 14, 1939: 25–29, tear sheets, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 64.
3 M.L. Schuster, typewritten statement, 23 May 1936, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 155.
4 See ‘The World in the Camera’s Eye: An Uncommonly Effective Pictorial Record of Recent History. Eyes on the World. A Photographic Record of History-in-the-Making. Edited by M. Lincoln Schuster. 304 pp. New York: Simon and Schuster. $3.75’ in New York Times (1923-Current file), June 30, 1935 (http://www.proquest.com.proxy.wexler.hunter.cuny.edu/).
5 M.L. Schuster, notes from London, 23 May 1934 (office memo), Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
6 Stein notes that ‘[i]f anything, photomontage in the U.S. seems to have leapfrogged the left and captured the imagination of conventional amateurs.’ See Sally Stein, ‘“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.” American Resistance to Photomontage between the Wars,’ in Montage and Modern Life 1919-1942, ed. Matthew Teitelbaum, 139 (Boston, MIT Press and the Institute of Contemporary Art, 1992). For Stein’s discussion of American photo books, see p. 153.
7 Andrea Nelson, ‘Flickering Histories: Mass Media Photobooks from the 1930s,’ Cahier 1, no. 1 (2009): 77.
8 Siegfried Kracauer and Thomas Levin (translator), ‘Photography,’ Critical Inquiry 19, no. 3 (1993): 435 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/1343959).
9 ‘By the dynamic arrangement of such pulsating source-material, with an eye to historical perspective, it is occasionally possible to “photograph” ideas, to suggest raging winds of doctrine, and to pictorialize states of mind and emotions, both individually and in the mass.’ See M.L. Schuster, ed., introduction, Eyes on the World: A Photographic Record of History in the Making (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1935), introduction.
10 ‘“Die Photographie” was first published in the Frankfurter Zeitung, 28 Oct. 1927. It was first reprinted in Siegfried Kracauer, Das Ornament der Masse (Frankfurt am Main, 1963), p. 21-39, a collection of essays that the author himself edited.’ See translator’s note in S. Kracauer and T. Levin (note 8), 421.
11 Reminiscences of Max Lincoln Schuster (April 2, 1956), p. 45, in the Columbia University Oral History Research Office Collection (hereafter CUOHROC).
12 Ibid., 21.
13 Ibid., 21 and 25–26.
14 M.L. Schuster, letter to Dick Simon, 27 March 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
15 G.T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature, Part 1’ (note 2), 23.
16 Reminiscences of Max Lincoln Schuster (note 11), 57–58 and 63–64 in CUOHROC.
17 Ibid., 106 and 110.
18 Ibid., 58.
19 Ibid., 69.
20 G.T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature, Part 1’ (note 2), 23.
21 M.L. Schuster, Eyes on the World (note 9), 296.
22 For example, Bourke-White writes, ‘In our country sympathy for Soviet Russia exists among the intellectuals rather than among the proletarians, who are under the influence of the conservative trade unions.’ See Margaret Bourke-White, Eyes on Russia (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1931), 20.
23 In fact, Bourke-White would go on to write the review of Eyes on the World that appeared in the Nation in 1935. While her review is overwhelmingly positive, she acknowledges that, ‘The book, among other things, reveals that montage as a method is difficult and in its infancy.’ See Margaret Bourke-White, ‘Portrait of a Year,’ Nation, July 31, 1935: 136.
24 S. Stein, ‘“Good Fences Make Good Neighbors”’ (note 6), 155.
25 Charles Cross and Norman Thomas (introduction), A Picture of America: The Photography of America – as It Is – and as It Might Be. Told by the News Camera (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1932), 2.
26 The last headline reads: ‘The Picture Darkens: The picture draws to a close. The eye of the camera begins to shut. Shall we sweep it quickly across America, for the last time before the dark?’ See ibid., 40.
27 Reminiscences of Max Lincoln Schuster (note 11), 67 in CUOHROC.
28 Laurence Stallings, The First World War: A Photographic History, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1933, introduction.
29 M.L. Schuster, letter to Dick Simon, 27 March 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
31 Time clipping, 19 November 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 131.
32 Time clipping, 31 July 1933, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 131.
33 In Barthes’s terms, the photographic image carries three messages: linguistic, coded iconic, and non-coded iconic. See Roland Barthes, ‘Rhetoric of the Image’ (1964), in Image-Music-Text (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 36.
34 In a letter to Simon, Schuster states that the ‘Camera Eye’ inscription refers to war photographers. See M.L. Schuster, letter to Dick Simon, 27 March 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
35 Michael Gold, ‘The Education of John Dos Passos,’ The English Journal 22, no. 2 (February 1933), 96 (http://www.jstor.org/stable/804561).
36 While the original 35 mm newsreel footage from The March of Time is currently under restoration by the HBO Archival Collection, selections from the series are available on earlier VHS transfers. See The March of Time Presents the Great Depression. Time Marches in 1935: Part 1, SFM Entertainment, 1988, B+W, 88 minutes, VHS. Hi-fi mono.
37 M.L. Schuster, Eyes on the World (note 9), 286.
38 G.T. Hellman, ‘Profiles: How to Win Profits and Influence Literature, Part 1’ (note 2), 28.
39 S. Kracauer and T. Levin (translator), ‘Photography’ (note 8), 432.
40 M.L. Schuster, handwritten office memo, Tuesday, 29 May 1934, Max Lincoln Schuster Papers (note 1), Box 250.
Margaret Innes, « History in the Making », Études photographiques, 28 | novembre 2011, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 18 juin 2014. URL : http://etudesphotographiques.revues.org/3470. consulté le 29 mars 2017.