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Eyes on Labor: News Photography and America's Working Class 1st Edition

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199768233
ISBN-10: 0199768234
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Editorial Reviews


"Quirke took on a tremendous task in this study.... The result of Quirke's extensive research is a major contribution to the history of labour in the United States and...the history of photography...." --Labour

"By examining how the American worker was represented across the period's print culture, Quirke offers a rich picture of American labor in the early twentieth century and highlights the role that mass media played in circulating that picture... Eyes on Labor is a comprehensive and valuable history of the ways that American labor was depicted visually during the period when photography came to dominate the mass culture of print. Quirke's sophisticated reading of images' production, composition, reproduction, and circulation opens up new avenues for engagement with both labor history and the visual culture of the period. Her sustained attention to issues of gender and race, combined with her sensitivity to the role of mainstream media and popular culture, make this book valuable not only for labor historians or visual culture scholars but also for those who study early twentieth-century mass media and communication." --American Historical Review

"Eyes on Labor, by exploring the depiction of labor's organizing in news photography
and unions' use of photography in their own publications, provides an original and convincing view of the cultural war that developed in the 1930s and 1940s to frame Americans' views of the labor movement and collective bargaining... Carol Quirke tells a remarkable story - prescient in many ways. Though her account ends in the mid-1950s, it offers important lessons for an understanding of labor's decline in the half century since then. We are all the richer for the photos she shares and explores in this important new study." --International Review of Social History

"More than a social revolution, the 1930s labor upsurge set off a visual revolution, argues Carol Quirke in Eyes on Labor, a perceptive, richly illustrated examination of photojournalism as practiced by news corporations, employers, and unions - all of whom drew on the seeming objectivity of photography to advance their interests... Based on astute readings of individual photographs and a deep understanding of the context in which they operated, Eyes on Labor persuasively evokes how images shaped reality in working-class America." --Journal of American History

"Eyes on Labor provides a nuanced and complex understanding of business and labor
struggles... [T]he excellent contextual material, combined with a strong conceptual
perspective, and a nuanced analysis of news images, makes Eyes on Labor a must-read
for researchers interested in visual communication and/or labor history." --Journal of American Studies

"Eyes on Labor is a valuable contribution to the history of journalism, exploring the ways in which imagery has been deployed in reporting, but also by corporate and labor interests, to shape public perceptions of American workers and their struggles. Its origins lie in a study of Life magazine's depiction of the Great Depression, which found that despite its black-and-white palette it depicted an America 'closer to the Technicolor Land of Oz than dowdy, dust bowl Kansas.' As the quote suggests, this is a well-written, engaging study, and an ambitious one. It encompasses representations of class, of visual language, of the ways even sympathetic portrayal of labor struggles can elide workers' agency." --Journalism History

"In Eyes on Labor, Carol Quirke documents the powerful role that photojournalism
played in shaping public perceptions of workers and unions during the New Deal and
the post-World War II period... As Quirke notes, photojournalism is an understudied phenomenon. She has performed a valuable service in explaining the power of visual imagery to shape public opinion about labor and, indeed, to influence how workers and unions perceive themselves." --Labor Studies Journal

"Quirke undertakes a remarkable task, reconstituting the excitement and effects brought by this revolution in mass culture... The case studies are diverse and entertaining...[and] Quirke's abilities in reconstructing history really shine. Reading between the lines of the text, one has the sense of the huge archival task the researcher faced in examining U.S. photographic representations of labor in the first half of the twentieth century... Eyes on Labor is a truly enjoyable journey." --Visual Studies

"Quirke is a skillful, nimble critic with impressive interdisciplinary chops. Eyes on Labor is, among other things, a convincing cultural history that combines a synthetic knowledge of scholarship on labor with rich archival details and case studies; an astute study of photojournalism, keyed to crucial transitions in media and photographic technology; and a compelling analysis of visual culture that offers finely tuned, if typically brief, interrogations of specific images, attending to the nuances of composition, intertextual reference, and institutional context." --caa.reviews

"Eyes on Labor fills a gap by analyzing this ongoing struggle, focusing on the period of unions' ascendancy from the 1930s to the early 1950s. Highly Recommended." --CHOICE

"Carol Quirke has written a finely crafted study of the rise of photojournalism, focused on organized labor. Filled with insights, the book is based upon a nuanced reading of the visual record, including periodicals such as Life and Steel Labor, along with deep archival research. Eyes on Labor is a wonderful work that will interest anyone who cares about consumer culture, mass media, and labor history."--David Jaffee, visual editor of Who Built America? Working People and the Nation's Economy, Politics, Culture, and Society

"In displaying the shifting construction of class identity and trade unionism in mass circulation magazines, Carole Quirke brilliantly shows the political significance of visual representation in the twentieth century; working-class use of photography for self-enhancement; and the shifting public profile of the labor movement during its turbulent and institutionalizing decades, the1930s to the 1950s. This powerful and original work is cultural history at its most potent."--Eileen Boris, coauthor of Caring for America: Home Health Workers in the Shadow of the Welfare State

About the Author

Carol Quirke is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Suny Old Westbury. She has published essays and reviews in the American Quarterly, Reviews in American History, and New Labor Forum. She is a former community organizer, who worked on economic justice, immigrant rights, and public housing issues before receiving her Ph.D. in U.S. History. She has a close connection to the events described in Eyes on Labor-her grandfather was working in the Republic Steel mill when police shot strikers on Chicago's Southeast Side; her great-uncle was one of the 100 plus men, women and children who were shot by police in what is called the Memorial Day Massacre.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 376 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (August 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199768234
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199768233
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,472,624 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In the first part of the 20th century, particularly during the Depression, labor rose to a level of real influence in the United States despite its present decline. How was that movement interpreted in magazine and news photography and how did those pictures in turn shape public attitudes and responses? Which esthetic and political decisions were made by photographers, which by editors, and which by the participants in local on-the-ground struggles that were then woven into a larger movement? Quirke covers this important historical territory. She includes discussion of amateur photographers in a union photo club to show how members actually characterized themselves and the world they inhabited. Using famous and mundane photographs, Quirke subtly weaves one aspect of the visual politics of an age. The writing is clear and the narrative, which is divided into particular episodes and perspectives, lively, since Quirke uses quotes and focused visual description as well as pictures and analysis.
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Format: Paperback
Excellent book for those interested in the history of labor unions. News photography played a major role in forming America's perceptions. This book gives close examination of photographic composition and depending on the magazine, everyday workers, their struggles, and triumphs were either supported or vilified, in the american press.
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