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Martha Rosler, David Burnett and the Photographic Coverage of the Chilean Coup

Didier Aubert, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle

Recent debates about the crisis about photojournalism, and attributed to the digital revolution and the difficulties of the printed press, can in fact be traced back to the 1970s at least. As the Vietnam War was winding down and Life magazine was folding, it may be said that a “golden age” of American photojournalism was coming to an end. The transformation of the profession was due to a number of economic, cultural and political factors, which can be analyzed through the coverage of the Chilean coup which brought down the Allende government on September 11, 1973. This event provides numerous insights on the way photojournalism was being redefined along various lines: the internationalization of its production and circulation, the questions which surrounded the relative worth of professional and “amateur” pictures, and the underlying crisis of confidence of the American politics of photography. This presentation will focus on the reception of various photographs taken during the coup, such as the criticism of David Burnett´s work by Martha Rosler, or John Morris´s discussion of Allende´s “last picture” – an anymous photograph which was elected best picture of the year by the World Press Photo.