“Now, as hundreds of iPhones capture an arrest at an OWS protest in the name of justice, no one can doubt that some of these images can and will also be singled out at some point in the name of the aesthetic. But does the time-lag involved in moving from the streets to the museum (or to the hip blogosphere) work against their reciprocity? When the marginal becomes the fashionable, does a genre like street photography lose its street cred? The financial crisis of the 1930s helped provoke the hard-nosed solidarity of the Photo League, both its politics and its aesthetics, whereas our own crisis is shadowed by skepticism on both fronts.
“Ever since Susan Sontag’s On Photography formalized the conventional wisdom that photography is dangerous—from the presumption of its ‘photographic’ veracity to its powers of exploitation—an acute sensitivity to photographer-subject relationships has bred within the medium an identity politics that’s not easily negotiated. This discomfort is heightened, in conjunction with technological innovation and class stratification, by the type of camera one uses, the motives for and context of its use, the social background of both artist and subject—all can be seen as capable of compromising the radical camera ethic of the Photo League.”