The Mind of the Photo

J. Hoberman

In his writing about photography, Siegfried Kracauer, the Frankfurt School’s freelance intellectual par excellence, was less concerned with the intention of the photographer than with the logic of the medium—a radical view that prized the unforeseen correspondences and inadvertent revelations that may be found in dated news photos or old family portraits, photographs where initial associations fade and vanish so that the image “necessarily disintegrates into its particulars.” Part of the pleasure of a new book of his family photos is finding these very sorts of revelations in the Kracauers’ generally artless snapshots.

What’s Wrong with the Economy—and with Economics?

On March 14–15, 2015, The New York Review of Books Foundation, Fritt Ord, and the Dan David Prize held a conference, “What’s Wrong with the Economy—and with Economics?” at Scandinavia House in New York. We are pleased to present the following video footage of the event.

Arleen

Luc Sante

Let me play you “Arleen,” by General Echo, a seven-inch 45 on the Techniques label, produced by Winston Riley, a number one hit in Jamaica in the autumn of 1979. “Arleen” is in the Stalag 17 riddim, a slow, heavy, insinuating track that is nearly all bass—the drums do little more than bracket and punctuate, and the original’s brass-section color has been entirely omitted in this version. I’m not really sure what Echo is saying. It sounds like “Arleen wants to dream with a dream.” A dream within a dream. Whether or not those are his actual words, it is the immediate sense. The riddim is at once liquid and halting, as if it were moving through a dark room filled with hanging draperies, incense and ganja smoke, sluggish and nearly impenetrable air—the bass walks and hurtles.

The Mistress and the Marionette

Ian Buruma

“The conventional opinion about Egon Schiele’s 1915 portrait of his wife Edith,” writes Ian Buruma in the Review‘s April 2 issue, “is that it betrays his romantic disappointment. His wife may have represented domestic calm, a point of stability in respectable Viennese society, and so forth, but she wasn’t sexy like his mistress Wally. So how does the apparently wholesome innocence of Edith’s portrait fit into Schiele’s oeuvre? Is it just an expression of conjugal assurance and erotic disappointment? Or is there more to it? I think there is. Looked at more closely, the picture still reveals Schiele’s fascination with the very Viennese entanglement of sex and death.” Here we present a series of Schiele’s paintings of Edith, Wally, and himself, with commentary drawn from Buruma’s piece.

Alaska Through New Eyes

Ian Frazier

In 1886, the sole representative of American authority in Alaskan waters was the US Revenue Cutter Bear, a 198-foot, reinforced-hull vessel powered by both steam and sail. Newly published photographs from the Bear’s cruise that summer chronicle its journey from San Francisco to Alaska and Siberia, and are among the earliest photos of that part of the world.