Book travels the long road of images in war photography – 06/04/2021 – World – KSU

A wounded Libyan rebel tries to avoid imminent death in an award-winning image portrayed by Brazilian photographer André Liohn in 2011.

The Greek musician Orpheus tries to remove fatal blows to a similar attitude in an engraving of 1494 by the German Albrecht Durr, who in turn copies another attributed to the school of the Venetian teacher Andrea Madegnna a few years earlier. .

The period from classical antiquity, where the death of the mythical Orpheus was described, in the hot deserts of Libya by Muammar Gaddafi is the subject of journalist Leão Serva in “The formula of emotion in the photograph of war” (Editions Sesc SP, 204 pages ., 69 R $).

Based on detailed research, based on Serva’s doctoral dissertation presented at PUC-SP in 2017, the book seeks to identify similarities over the centuries to aesthetically analyze a more recent phenomenon, war photography.

Recently, from a historical point of view, of course, since the practice emerged in the first conflict with effective coverage: the Crimean War, lost by the Russians to a Western-Ottoman alliance in 1856, the mother of many enemies between the Kremlin and Europe.

At the heart of the dissertation is the psychic relationship between the representation of surprise, of pain, in short, of “passions”, the intense emotion that surrounds the extreme moments of human existence – and almost everything is in armed conflict.

A director of journalism at TV Cultura, the Serb experienced coverage of the war, such as during trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina during the break-up of Yugoslavia by Fola. From there came a book about Sarajevo.

But now he is an academic, as well as the well-known instrument he uses: reading Aby Warburg art history about the fantastic intimacy that has transcended the centuries.

The German of “Jewish Blood and Florence” Warburg (1866-1929) spent his life methodically defining similarities between the archetypal images inherited from Antiquity to the Renaissance and beyond.

From hair in the wind to terror to death, almost everything was a catalog. From there arose Pathosformel, the German for the formula of emotion based on Serva’s book, and an unfinished and monumental Atlas of Mnemosine Icons (in honor of the guardian of memory and the mother of all the musts of Greek mythology).

A less intellectual observation would say that in descriptions of violence, such a spirit of aesthetic continuity is only an assimilation of man’s primary instincts: everyone reacts more or less equally when threatened.

Such an idea did not escape Warburg, as Serba recalls in his introduction to the master, as he was a reader of Charles Darwin’s work on the identity of emotions between humans and animals – less famous, but no less controversial at the time of its release. . (1872) from the classic “The Origin of Species” (1859).

During World War I (1914-18), Warburg wanted to serve Germany and compile a large archive of aesthetic data on the conflict, a struggle that bequeathed to the world not only terror but, in his argument Canadian historian Modris Eksteins, all modernism.

In 2004, the Warburg Institute in London found a lost series of war photographs collected by the Germans. During the development of her dissertation, Serba studied them in person.

In his text, the journalist analyzes other photographs thematically (image of Christ, beheaded, etc.) and comments on phenomena that are not foreign to the conflict of journalism, such as frames to increase their aesthetic effect.

It is suggested that this may have happened in the famous account of the Venetian Felice Beato of a Hindu fortress occupied in 1858 by the British, tuned to the skeletons of the defeated rebels.

Nothing very different about the distribution of radio frequencies to the people of Kabul immediately after the fall of the Taliban in November 2001, when some Western journalists wanted to show the world the vitality of limited access to music under the fundamentalist regime. . .

But the political and moral consequences of photographic war photography are not Serva’s main focus – on this subject, the experimental Susan Sontag and her analytical arc ranging from “About Photography” (1977) to “Facing the Pain of Others ”(2003) is a beginning.

Serva will take part in a virtual chat about the book for the next 14 at 7pm on the TV PUC website (

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