Walter Benjamin
[Philosopher, critic, and theorist, b. 1892, Berlin, d. 1940, Port Bou, France.]

 “The illiterate of the future,” it has been said, “will not be the man who cannot read the alphabet, but the one who cannot take a photograph.” But must we not also count as illiterate the photographer who cannot read his own pictures? 
 Rather than ask, “What is the attitude of a work to the relations of production of its time?” I should like to ask, “What is its position in them.” 
 ... [L]ess than at any time does a simple reproduction of reality tell us anything about reality. A photograph of the Krupp works or GEC yields almost nothing about those institutions. Reality proper has slipped into the functional. The reification of human relationships, the factory, let’s say, no longer reveals these relationships. Therefore something has to be constructed, something artificial, something set up. 
 Every image of the past that is not recognised by the present as one of its own threatens to disappear irretrievably. 
 Every day the urge grows stronger to get a hold of an object at very close range by way of its likeness, its reproduction. (1936) 
 History breaks down into images, not into stories. 
 What we must demand from the photographer is the ability to put such a caption beneath his picture as will rescue it from the ravages of modishness and confer upon it a revolutionary use value. 
 [Photography] has become more and more subtle, more and more modern, and the result is that it is now incapable of photographing a tenement or a rubbish heap without transfiguring it. Not to mention a river dam or electric cable factory: in front of these, photography can now only say, “How beautiful!” 
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