The Daily Heller: Looking at Now to Predict the Future Then

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You can see a lot of similarities between today and the past by looking at some of the prescient photography anthologies produced as the world was entering a century of existential change. Eyes on the World, edited by M. Lincoln Schuster* (1935), is such a volume. Relying heavily on photocollage juxtaposed with newspaper headlines, we see turmoil from 1935–1936 that curiously resembles our own. In one sense the future of democracy seems secure, with headlines that foresee the election of a woman president “soon.” Mortgages are threateningly high. The fault lines that run between fascism and communism are ready to shake the world. Eyes on the World also focuses on how fashion and style fit into the equation of the record-in-making.

(*Schuster was co-founder of Simon & Schuster)

In this volume subtitled “A Photographic Record of History in the Making,” the editor writes, “honest pictures can give us an impact, a startled awareness, a deep flooding illumination which even honest worlds cannot always attain. In the right hands, an artist’s lens is an instrument of truth, a probing and searching instrument. It can unlock secrets lodged in ponderous sociological surveys, it can unseat error and destroy partisan pleading. In such hands, a split-second camera is too precise and too dangerously accurate a reporter to be wasted on the routine. … The hair-trigger opening and closing of these thousands of camera shutters, under these fantastically ideal conditions, would enable us … to fix comprehending eyes on the world.”

Battle of the -isms …

It is sometimes comforting that the world has been at similar brinks of disaster before. This “eye to historical perspective” is a record of ideas that suggest “the raging winds of doctrine.” These collages and montages show “what history looks like when she is being poured red hot from the ladle.” Which anyone bombarded by news broadcasts, streams and notifications can appreciate in our current media muddle.

It takes two or more ideologies to make a war.

The greed of rapacious real-estate developers is always haunting.

Not everything is gloom and doom … or is it?

To celebrate the textile industries, a statuesque symbol.

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