60s America Through Images Essay

The 1960s proved a tumultuous time for the United States in how there were so many historical developments in the mere space of a decade. Throughout the 60s Americans experienced and witnessed many events such as war, civil rights campaigns and protests, assassinations, technological developments and the emergence of a popular culture and counterculture. Photography came to the fore at the start of the 20th century and a huge emphasis was put on the visual to experience culture.

The historical developments of the 60s can be seen clearly through the visual culture as they portray the historical events of the time through the medium of imagery.

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With the growing popularization of television, imagery could be rapidly distributed to each home and this is one of the main reasons that visual culture had such a profound effect on those who witnessed the events portrayed. “By the end of the decade 90% of Americans had access to television sets” this staggering amount of led to a high level of influence though reception of imagery.

For instance when we look at the portrayal of the typical American family one would often see an image of a close-knit family sitting together watching television. In the space of a decade from the 1950s television was incorporated in the American family (see fig. 1. ). Pictures such as this defined the family of the late 50s early 60s and incorporated the television into American families. With the television being a vital part of family life there was a constant flow of imagery available for the family to view. We can clearly see through images such as this that the US population began to regularly consume what the television provided.

The photograph captures the importance television as a family pastime and how it gradually became the main focus of family time. Therefore we can see that the visual culture through the media such as television, newspapers and the images they provided to the population had a serious impact on historical developments of the 1960s. Information was constantly received by the population usually alongside images of events and the visual culture affected the historical developments of the 60s in how it influenced reactions to events.

It is also evident that visual culture heavily influenced the 1960s due to the amount of images and videos from the time that are still available for viewing today. Figure 1. Everett F. Baumgardner. Family watching Television. 1958. Photograph. Nation Archives and Records of Administration. http://web. archive. org/web/20071226081329/teachpol. tcnj. edu/amer_pol_hist/thu mbnail427. htm One of the most important events to happen in the 1960s which greatly affected the US was its part of was the Vietnamese War.

The war had a vital part in the 60s decade as it spanned through the whole of the 60s up until 1975. The war was the first of its kind as it was reported in great detail through television and newspapers. Essentially the Vietnam War and visual culture of the time went hand in hand as the relationship between the two was constant throughout the 60s. For over a decade people could get a visual insight into the war which had never been available before and many believe this is one of the main reasons that the US lost the war.

President Lyndon seen this and argued that “if the previous wars had been televised, the United States would not have preserved in fighting them. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman would have lost support for their policies even as he lost support for his, forcing the abandonment of his campaign for his re-election. ” It was due to the constant visual bombardment of the ugly realities of war on the US people that turned them against the war and forced many to protest the war (fig. 2 and fig. 3). Figure 2. Horst Faas. A father holds the body of a child. 1964. Photograph.

Available at Photographer Collection: Horst Faas http://blogs. denverpost. com/captured/2012/05/15/photographer-collection-horst-faas-vietnam/5689/ . Figure3. Horst Faas. Lt. Col. George Eyster of Florida. 1966. Photograph. Available at Photographer Collection: Horst Faas http://blogs. denverpost. com/captured/2012/05/15/photographer-collection-horst-faas-vietnam/5689/ Photographers such as Horst Fass gained their reputation for showing the horrors of the Vietnamese war through their photographs. Faas captured some of the most controversial photographs that showed the suffering of both sides of the war.

When we look at these photos we can see the influence of the Vietnamese War on the visual culture of the United States. Pictures such as these were received on a daily basis and they dominated the decade visually becoming some of the most well known images from the 60s and the war itself. The graphic pictures show the ugly side of the Vietnamese War and photographs such as the father clutching his daughter’s body in front of soldiers dealt with the death of civilians while the photo of injured soldiers showed frailty of US troops.

At the time these photographs seen showed the truth about the war and Fass would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for his work in Vietnam. When we look these images it is clear that both reflect on the dark chaos of the war and the ugly realities which the civilian population had never seen before. The visual culture greatly affected the population’s war morale as it provided frail images of US soldiers either dead or wounded something which was not shown in previous wars.

The reporting of the Second World War and the Korean War was different in that it was filtered with most hearing reports through radio broadcasts and newspapers which were controlled by the government. By the 60s there had been major developments in media reporting in that they had become more liberated. By the 60s multiple channels were emerging with their own news reporters providing multiple stories and recounts of different parts of the war. Therefore there was a vast increase in the amount of broadcasts and images being sent into the American homes greatly influencing a majority of the population.

With photographers such as Faas working in Vietnam and capturing images showing innocent civilians being killed the United States population saw an unseen side to its army throughout the Vietnamese war as the army was shown in a very negative view. It can clearly be seen that photographers such as Faas greatly influenced the visual culture of the US throughout the 60s and these images had a significant impact in historical developments leading to the war effort becoming unpopular and encouraging anti war efforts.

Figure 4. Ron Haeberle. My Lai Massacre. 1968. Photograph. Available at Life Magazine. Vol. 67. No. 23 . The negative view of the US army was perhaps most emphasised in the My Lai massacre in 1968. Throughout past wars the US army was seen as a symbol of justice and a manifestation of the good in that they were fighting to save the world but with the emergence of images and reports of events such as the Mai Lai Massacre there morality and ethics were questioned.

Some even compared the US army to the Germans of World War Two in their way of psychologically thinking. “Two researchers concluded that Americans were deflecting the responsibility with the same defence mechanism the Germans used to rationalize the Holocaust. ” The photography which emerged from the massacre by Ron Haeberle shocked the world and spurred many of the US into protesting against the war. (Fig4. Here we can clearly see why many considered comparing the US army’s actions to that of the German holocaust, the brutality and graphic detail which Haeberle’s photos captured had never been so widely distributed before. The terror on the faces or the sheer number of bodies appearing in some of the images had not been captured on camera before and these pictures were seen by thousands when they were published in magazines such as Life and greatly affected the visual culture intake of the American population.

These particular photos had a huge influence on historical developments later in the war such as the protests and the investigations into what happened in the war. From looking at images such as photographs taken from the 1960s we can clearly see that the Vietnam had a huge influence on visual culture at the time and visual culture that would later emerge in the 70s. This was due to the fact that the war took up so many aspects of American life as it was a constant through the entire decade of the 60s. Regular exposure to the ugly realities of battle is thought to have turned the public against the war, forcing withdrawal of American troops and leaving the way clear for eventual Communist victory. ”The visual culture was hugely influenced by the Vietnam War in the 60s it was mostly through photography and videos shown to the public by the media but later it influenced visual culture through art such as sculpture and painting.

After the war ended in 1975 countless memorials were erected and many artists were inspired by the photographs this is evident in the sculpture The Three Soldiers Memorial sculpted in 1984 by Frederick Hart displayed in Washington. From looking at the Vietnam War throughout the 60s it is evident that it influenced the future of the visual culture as much as the visual culture influenced the developments of the war. The 60s decade can be defined as a decade of social revolution within the US.

Many different causes gained strength and a massive following through their protests to further their cause. During this decade many protested for different reasons such as anti-war campaigners and those looking for the equal rights. There were movements for many different causes such as the African American civil rights movement, Hispanic and Chicano movement and the Gay Rights movement. For example with the Vietnamese War came protests against the war throughout the 60s.

Those who were influenced by the atrocities shown in reports and images sent from Vietnam protested avidly throughout the 60s hence we can say the visual culture of the US had a great influence on the historical developments of the 60s, However although in the 60s protesting became very popular it was introduced through the Civil Rights movements in the late fifties early 60s and its idea of peaceful protesting. The 60s became a time associated with protest due to the vast amounts of protests staged for different reasons throughout the 60s.

One of the major protest movements of the 60s was the Civil Rights Movement. These protests initially started in the late 50s but peaked in the 60s and were a catalyst of many other protests in the 60s. Those who protested for civil rights did so in a peaceful way and this greatly influenced the other protests such as the anti-war protests. Once again we can see that the visual culture through the medium of photography greatly influenced the development of these protests. Once again the population of the US was provided with images shocking to behold.

The most influential case is perhaps the protest in Birmingham Alabama in 196 where the police reacted with unneeded violence. “Many argue that the dramatic clashes between nonviolent civil rights demonstrators and southern law enforcement in Birmingham and Selma were the principle impetus behind the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, respectively. ” Photographers of the time captured the violence of the police force and once again widely distributed and impacted on the community causing widespread support for the movement.

When we look at what photographers such as Bill Hudson and Bob Adelman captured in their photographs we can see why the visual culture had such an impact on the historical developments regarding the Civil Rights Movement (Fig. 5 and Fig. 6). The image of the youth being attacked by the police dog is very harrowing and controversial, through this image the US seen the severity of racism and its unneeded violence. This photo became a huge part of the visuality of the Civil Rights Campaign’s attempt to gain support from the rest of the US population due to the severity of the photo and how controversial it was.

Meanwhile Hudson’s photo of the protestors grouping together to take cover from water cannons can be seen as a symbol of unification of the protestors against the oppression of the police force and the city of Birmingham. There are countless images such as these two that were taken from the Birmingham Campaign This protest was a rally point for the Civil Rights Campaign and the images taken from Birmingham united and encouraged other people to protest in the south.

The visual culture greatly influenced the outcome of the Civil Rights Movement as the Birmingham protest was captured in photography and gave the rest of the US an insight into what was happening in the South. These images had a significant impact on 1960s America and provided a major boost for the campaign as it received national attention leading to desegregation and equal opportunity for the coloured population. This protest was a rally point for the Civil Rights Campaign and the images taken from Birmingham united and encouraged other coloured people to protest in the south.

The visual culture greatly influenced the outcome of the Civil Rights Movement as the Birmingham protest was captured through the photographers and gave the rest of the US an insight into what was happening in the South. These images had a significant impact on 1960s America and provided a major boost for the campaign as it received national attention leading to the gradual desegregation of the US and eventual equal opportunity for the coloured population. Figure 5. Bill Hudson. Birmingham Protest. 1963. Photograph. Available at Iconic photos http://iconicphotos. wordpress. om/2010/06/26/birmingham/. Figure6. Bob Adelman. Ingram Park Birmingham. 1963. Photograph. Available at J. Paul Getty Museum. http://www. getty. edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails? artobj=258562 . The Civil Rights Movement provided an example of peaceful protest which became a popular way of protesting throughout the 60s. The social group which held a majority of the protests at the time were third level students. “From the civil rights demonstrations of the early sixties, students have turned to protest both the war in Vietnam and the policies of their schools.

It is no exaggeration to give college students credit for making Vietnam a national issue. ”They were influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and based their protests on the same ideology in peaceful protests. The 60s were a time of constant protest for students. The issues of the student protest movements range from racial discrimination, the war on poverty, and the war in Vietnam, to particular policies of the universities. However it was the anti- war protests that spurred the most conflict between the students and the authorities.

The visual culture made impressions in developing the protests through the use of printing presses as seeing photos such as Faas’ or Adelman’s spurred the student bodies into action. With the emergence of the My Lai massacre and other such atrocities protests escalated to a climax at the end of the 60s with the Columbia University protests of 1968. Students discovered that the university was secretly affiliated with the Department of Defence’s weapon research and openly protested this affiliation with occupying university buildings and this eventually led to their violent removal.

However it was this violence by the authorities that increased support for the protestors. “In his study of the Columbia Crisis in the spring of 1968, Barton (1968) found that the use of excessive police force against demonstrators had the effect of increasing the sympathy of faculty and students for the tactics (a sit-in and a general strike) employed by the demonstrators. ” This violence recorded through the news and photographs once again captivated the US and encouraged many to take part in the protests (Fig. 7).

The imagery taken from the by photographers such as Morris captured the harsh measures the authorities and when these pictures were published in newspapers and magazines people began to empathize with the protestors. It is evident in each movement that the media greatly influenced the historical developments through imagery such as photography. Through photography and the media it can be said that the visual culture impacted the outcome of many movements such as the African-American civil rights movements, the anti-war protests and the gradual end of the war. Figure 7. Larry C. Morris. Police forcing Columbia Students out. 968. Photograph. Available at The New York Times. Imagery was a huge part of protests throughout the 60s through photographs of the events but other visuals emerged with the protestor’s use of posters. With the gradual growth of homemade printing presses simple yet colourful posters began to emerge at protests. At protests there was a constant bombardment of simple yet very controversial. The poster entitled ‘it’s the real thing for S. E. Asia’ was simple, eye catching and precise the bright colour of the posters caught bystander’s eyes and presented its argument outwardly in the face of the public (Figure 8. . Posters such as the ‘it’s the real thing for S. E Asia’ were a common site at protests against Vietnam and mocked capitalism and the military tactics that were employed during the time. These protests were against the stupidity and brutality of the war emerged in the early 60s with controversial posters such as this one becoming a more common sight. Anti-war protests provided the majority of the controversial posters as they attempted to highlight the problems with the war. By nature these posters

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