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How does a photograph become a news image? An ethnography of the labor behind international news images, Image Brokers ruptures the self-evidence of the journalistic photograph by revealing the many factors determining how news audiences are shown people, events, and the world. News images, Zeynep Gürsel argues, function as formative fictions – fictional insofar as these images are constructed and culturally mediated, and formative because their public presence and circulation have real consequences in the world.
Set against the backdrop of the War on Terror and based on fieldwork conducted at photojournalism’s centers of power, Image Brokers offers an intimate look at an industry in crisis. At the turn of the 21st century, image brokers—the people who manage the distribution and restriction of news images—found the core technologies of their craft, the status of images, and their own professional standing all changing rapidly with the digitalization of the infrastructures of representation. From corporate sales meetings to wire service desks, newsrooms to photography workshops and festivals, Image Brokers investigates how news images are produced and how worldviews are reproduced in the process.
Introduction: Formative Fictions and the Work of News Images
PART ONE. IMAGE-MAKING
1 What Precedes the Digital News Image?
2 Global Views Inc.: Visualizing Politics, from Shock and Awe to the Fall of Saddam Hussein
3 Agence France-Presse: What Is the Dominant?
4 Newsworld: Everyday Practices of Editing the World
PART TWO. WORLDMAKING
5 Barnstorm: An American Rite of Passage
6 Visa Pour l’Image: Personal Visions and Amateur Documents
7 World Press Photo: Developing World Photography
Conclusion: Waiting for the Dust to Settle
Appendix A: Cast of Characters
Appendix B: Timeline of the “War on Terror”
Zeynep Devrim Gürsel is a media anthropologist and Assistant Professor of International Studies at Macalester College.
“Zeynep Devrim Gürsel’s original and important new book takes ethnography to the heart of the ever-accelerating media world of photojournalism. Her central concept of the photojournalists’ works as formative fictions reminds us that they are always steeped in cultural understandings about the rest of the world. At the same time, the eponymous ‘image brokers’ who decide what we see are facing dilemmas that come with the digital transformations changing the very circuits through which reality is represented—all this in a rapidly changing image economy that impacts the news as we know it.”—Faye Ginsburg, New York University
“Gürsel has been in the middle of the fast-moving news process and at global centers of news power after 9/11 and during a period of dramatic change in the image-handling infrastructure. A wonderful close-up study—ethnographically lively, intellectually sophisticated.”—Ulf Hannerz, author of Foreign News: Exploring the World of Foreign Correspondents
“Image Brokers offers an intimate look at the complicated work that goes on behind the production and circulation of international news images at a time when the news industry is being subjected to profound technological changes due to digitization as well as a larger photojournalistic community in flux. Gürsel presents some fascinating new material, the result of fieldwork in several different sites and countries. This sophisticated and articulate book will be most welcome to scholars and students in a variety of fields.”—Patricia Spyer, Graduate Institute, Geneva