Leni Riefenstahl ; Jesse Owens Portrait.

Discussion in 'Discussing a ****** Photograph' started by John Bragg, Sep 8, 2006.

  1. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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  2. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    There are many other good, portraits John by photographers who weren't committed nazis, and friends of Adof Hitler.
     
  3. John Bragg

    John Bragg Member

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    I understand that, and (not wishing to get into the background of the author of this image), it is the look of total focus and determination in Owens eye that I find compelling. Nothing else is implied !!!!!!!

    Regards, john.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 8, 2006
  4. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Ben,

    It's disputable how committed a nazi she was. Also, it is disputable how far she was a friend of Hitler, and how far they used each other for their own ends.

    There are those who will hear only ill of her, and those who refuse to believe any ill of her. Having read a good deal about her, including two major biographies, I suspect that the truth lies somewhere between.

    And regardless of which camp you fall in, she was a brilliant photographer. There's no law saying that great artists have to be nice people.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  5. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    ALL sports photography is indebted to Leni Riefenstahl in a way or another. The way she shot the Berlin Olympics pretty much defined the template for the years to follow.

    That said, it's a beautiful portrait. I always think of her portraits to be more like the other ones on the same page you linked to: two-thirds to full-length. The expression on Owen's face is so alive, almost amused.
     
  6. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    She was a great photographer and her work was outstanding.

    The fact that she worked for the state she grew up in and rose to the top of the heap is a mark of her greatness. Was she a Nazi. Of course. How else would she get the commissions. It was the dominant party of her state.

    It is unfortunate that he state turned out to be a what it did, but using her as a whipping boy for that state makes little sense.

    Many of the founding fathers of this country were slave owners, and we excuse that by saying they were "of their time".

    She was also "of her time" and place.


    Michael
     
  7. haris

    haris Guest

    Michael precisely said it as it is...

    What Bible said: let it throw first stone one who didn't make any sin... something like that, I didn't tell it precisely, but you got the point...

    Just think would you reject job offered by your government. And would you think it that situation "My government is evil (if it is), I will reject offered job"

    Like Mafia, they give you an offer you can't refuse... :smile:

    I don't know was she Nazi or not, but, she got the oportunity to do what she like (make movies and photographs), government secured her budget, and else, by that working she had oportunity to establish herself as world recognized artist, etc... Not many people would reject that offer. And if you know that offer come from somebody (in this case dictatorship government or dictator himself) for whom you know that lots of bad things can happen if you insult them by rejecting (like stopping you to work, kill you, kill your familly or/and friends, remember that was Nazy government in 1930es/40es, who would say anything if some artist dissapear...), then...

    Being suporter of that government or not, rejecting that offer would be dangerous, and than, it would be rejecting of many oportunities. And people sold themselves for much less...

    Look what happens these days with Nobel price receiver, Gunter Grass...

    Today there are countries which rest of the world don't like, even hate. But, people in those countries don't think they do anything wrong if they work for governments of those countries, and don't pay much attention what rest of the world think. Leni did the same 70 years ago...
     
  8. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    Well said, Michael.
     
  9. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    Therefore, we should ignore a person's obvious talent because we have a problem with some of their beliefs. I find this logic rather offensive.
     
  10. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    So, she used her talent to make some of the best Nazi propaganda ever made. She knowingly glorified Hitler and the Nazi ideal. An ideal which was repugnant in its time and which is repugnant now. Can we really forget all that and judge her photographs in isolation? I'd be interested to know how many of the people who are suggesting that we acknowledge her talent without reservation (if that is what they are suggesting) have seen "Triumph of the Will". Hitler deified.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  11. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    Many artists through history have used their talents for propaganda. The best artists of their time worked on Catholic propaganda, Greek propaganda, Roman Propaganda, Egyptian propaganda...

    I think we have to take their work as it presents itself.

    That said, she certainly did glorify the Aryan myth beautifully.

    To some, the pictures used during the FDR era were propaganda for communism/socialism which helped dig the US out of the depression. Fortunately/unfortunately the war did the real work.


    Michael
     
  12. Krasnaya Zvezda

    Krasnaya Zvezda Member

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    Yes. Referring to current administration of U.S., I would decline, and probably not respectfully.
     
  13. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    When it comes to the glorification of Hitler and his beliefs?

    YES

    B
     
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  15. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Well said, Helen.

    Someone who could make "Triumph of the Will" was more than just a "casual Nazi" trying to get government work!

    She glorified a man and an ideology that systematically slaughtered over six million people. She was fortunate enough to avoid the Nuremberg noose and lived long enough for subsequent generations to become unaware of her role in supporting and advancing a hideous death machine.

    And let it not be forgotten that Jesse Owens accomplishments in the 1936 Olympics were greeted with derision by Hitler and his cohorts. So to say his favorite photographer took the "definitive" portrait of Owens is an insult to Owens!
     
  16. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

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    Richard Wagner was a rabid antisemite and as some as his contempories remarked "not someone you you want to invite to dinner". However, does this negate his obvious musical genius.

    Thomas Edison used to tour around the US electrocuting dogs and puppies to "prove" that his DC power was safer than the AC power advocated by Westinghouse. Does he somehow lose his talent because people shouldn't like him?

    Should we demand that famous people have absolutely perfect characters? I think not.
     
  17. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser

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    Not the kind of thing I put on to entertain friends. That's for certain.

    This thread is telling me a little more than I want to know.

    B.
     
  18. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    Unfortunately, we will never know who the excellent photographers (and other people) were who decided not to join the Nazi party.

    Careful with the word "we". I don't excuse the founding fathers for being slave owners. It is a shame (in the truest sense of the word).

    If you were a scientist, I would ask, "who is the greater human--Albert Einstien or Werner Heisenberg".

    One left Germany the other stayed. Both were excellent Physicists. One is the better person.

    Matt
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    "Without reservation," no. "Acknowledge her talent," yes. And I have indeed seen a good deal of her work -- probably at least as much as anyone of my age (mid/late 50s) both cinematic and still.

    I do not think I have seen any here in the former camp ("Without reservation"). Anyone who refuses to join the latter camp ("Acknowledge her talent") must surely have a strange definition of talent.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  20. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    Frankly, I don't see that much talent. I think she was perfectly suited to the task of glorifying Nazism. She was every bit as much of a photographer as Hitler was a painter, or Albert Speer was an architect. Like all Nazi attempts at art, her work will be relegated to the historical dustbin it so richly deserves.
     
  21. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    True. And your point is...?

    Staying in Germany didn't detract from his physics. Your opinion -- my opinion, the world's opinion -- of his personality and politics doesn't change that. Any more than it changes Leni's talent.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    She was perfectly suited to the task of glorifying ANYTHING. Look also at the Nuba or her underwater photography.This is not a common talent. Its misapplication does not mean she wasn't good at it, and to compare her with Hitler as a painter is frankly risible.

    If she'd been on the right side politically, she'd be lionised beyond belief. Because she did a lot of Nazi propaganda, her genius is understandably attacked. Few decry National Socialism more than I but to issue blanket condemnations is to abdicate from rational thought or artistic regard.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  23. catem

    catem Member

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    Interesting discussion, and difficult.... I've only seen snatches of her film and don't know how much of a Nazi she herself was, so forgive me for that, but aside from the idea of whether her work should be the focus of discussion or not, if it's O.K. to set that aside for a moment, and just concentrating on this photograph, it just strikes me that one kind of irony about the Berlin Olympics and this photograph is - didn't Hitler hate the Olympics in the end because he wanted them to show that the Aryan Race was superior in all ways, which they obviously weren't and he hated Jesse Owens because he was such a superior athlete. If I remember correctly, he hated this photograph (correct me if I'm wrong). You could say the message of the photograph runs counter to Nazi ideals. Hilter was an out-an-out racist, not the sort who thought that black people were O.K. as athletes....And this photograph stands as a powerful celebration of Jesse Owens...

    Cate
     
  24. c6h6o3

    c6h6o3 Member

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    I guess seeing the prints in person must add something. Nevertheless, when I look at reproductions of her photographs I see masterful documentary illustrations. I don't see art.

    The quandry about how to square her political aquiescence with her talent is well described in this review of a documentary about her.
     
  25. Will S

    Will S Member

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    I really didn't want to get into this, but here are just a couple of quick (hopefully) accurate factoids:

    All Germans had to be evaluated after the war so that they could be "de-Nazified" and they were categorized from 1 (Nazi) to 5 (totally innocent). Reifenstahl was found to be a 4. I can't remember where I read that, but wikipedia says it as well.

    The Great Depression was already over by 1939, though job levels didn't return to 1929 levels until 1941 (before Pearl Harbor). (I just confirmed this on wikipedia too.)

    The goal of the photographers of FSA (and RA) was to present the plight of the small farmer so as to save them, and they needed all the help they could get. Though I will admit that "some" could certainly call it propaganda for Communism "some" also think the Earth is 6000 years old and call themselves "scientists".

    I far prefer "Native Land" to "Triumph of the Will" (OK that's not really a factoid though it is true)

    I "wish" I could stop using quotes.

    Best,

    Will
     
  26. MattCarey

    MattCarey Member

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    This assumes she had no choices. Was there no work for photographers in Switzerland? England?

    If she had been on the right side politically--well, first we should note she would have been on the right side morally--she could have still been an artist. She still could have found work. Too bad it would have meant leaving her country behind. However, if more excellent people had done this, perhaps the problem would have gone away.

    Here is an alternate situation. C. Everett Koop, surgeon general under the Reagan adminstration, chose to have his portrait done by Mapplethorpe. This was clearly not a decision that would have pleased the administration.

    Yes, it doesn't rise to the same level. But, I have a lot of respect for Koop.

    Another way to look at it, if by doing the propoganda she made more people volunteer, made people work just that little bit harder, made the war last just one day longer. If by supporting the effort, just one more person died--does she have no responsibility?

    So, my point (as asked in another post). Well, it is clearly stated, who is the better person. If you want another take, then it would be this.

    Yes, the image is good. Yes, she had talent. Yes, she had a major impact.

    AND

    Yes, I wish none of it existed. The world would be a better place without the image of Jesse Owens and a few more people surviving the war.

    Matt