chapter  7
18 Pages

Photographs as Primary Sources

Photographs should be a challenge for anyone including them in their efforts at writing and teaching history. They are both fact and fiction, intimately connected to their subject and yet cut off and de-contextualized. On the one hand, they resonate with an aura that mysteriously brings us in contact with a person, place, or event. On the other hand, we know that we are only glimpsing a dislocated fragment of the real thing. It reminds one of the old lines from the 1923 Irving Berlin song about how, in the absence of a person, all that remains is their picture: “What’ll I do with just a photograph to tell my troubles to?”