Books by Susan D. Moeller

Released: March 8, 1989

Written simply and straightforwardly, yet with great subtlety and insight, this first published work by a former photojournalist is an engrossing survey of the output and attitudes of American photographers from the Spanish-American to the Vietnam wars. Moeller (History/Princeton) traces not only the methods employed by such combat cameramen as Frederick Remington, Jimmy Hare, Edward Steichen, Robert Capa, David Douglas Duncan, and Larry Burrows, but manages to encapsulate the shifting attitudes of viewers to their works and to delineate the changing relationships between the press, the government, and the military over the years. In contrast to the anything-goes attitude of the Spanish-American War, she reports, WW I saw the establishment of military censorship of information emanating from the battle zone. Where photograph captions sent from Cuba in 1898 mentioned specific locations and dates, captions during the Great War invariably settled for such generalities as "Our Heroes at the Front." Subject matter was censored as well. Photographs depicting the dead, the dying, or the wounded were suppressed, purportedly in deference to the feelings of those back home and, more probably, for fear of sparking antiwar sentiments. Photographs were more candid during WW II and censorship less stringent. During the U.N. "police action" in Korea, Douglas MacArthur opted for "voluntary" censorship by the photographers themselves. The result was chaotic, with cameramen and correspondents unsure how to interpret the military's vaguely worded "guidelines." Eventually, censorship was reimposed. It was during the Vietnam conflict that the movement from "partner" to "adversary" relationship between the press and the military reached its peak. In light of the Vietnam experience, it is little wonder that the Reagan Administration forbade on-the-spot press coverage of the Grenada invasion in 1983. Moeller organizes her massive research with a masterly hand; the facts and their significance flow smoothly from chapter to chapter. She is equally adept at evaluating the aesthetics of her subjects' output. From almost every angle, then, a work by a major new nonfiction talent. Read full book review >