Susan Meiselas’s Nicaragua: The Photo-book


Susan Meiselas, Awaiting counter attack by the National Guard, Matagalpa, Nicaragua, 1978 (189.2003.5)

Documentary photographers are constantly faced with the ethical issues, political implications, and opportunism associated with the exploitative nature of photography. This image by Susan Meiselas was the cover photo for her book Nicaragua, a documentation of civil war–photographs of a nation in turmoil during the decline of the Somoza regime and the Sandinista revolution.

Methods of presentation play an important role in how a delicate subject matter, such as war imagery, is received. In Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975-2001, Martha Rosler revisits her criticism of Meiselas and the mass production of war imagery in the media, and, instead, touches on the importance of Meiselas’s images of Nicaragua viewed as a photo-book in such a pivotal moment in American history:

The publication of Meiselas’s book was significant: a high-budget, high-profile photo book, put out by the important publisher Pantheon Books, about a leftist revolution in the Third World–just the area of the world that we in the United States considered our fiefdom–at the start of the “Reagan revolution” and the historic swing to the right in the United States.

Martha Rosler. Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Writings, 1975-2001. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004. p. 245

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