Cadava, Eduardo. ‘History’ Words of Light: Theses on the Photography of History (Chichester: Princeton University Press, 1997) pp.1-5


[In ‘Theses on the concept of History’] Benjamin’s consideration of the historical and philosophical questions suggested by the rise and fall of photography can therefore be understood as an effort to measure the extent to which the media of technical reproduction lend themselves to social and political forces that, for him, go in the direction of the worst.


His concern with photography – its invention and its history – coincides with his interest in the effects of technology on our understanding of the aesthetic, effects that delineate the features of our modernity.

His insistence on the necessaity of addressing these questions and relations today – then in the 1930s as well as now, under the light or darkness of a scarcely less disastrous historical moment. – is, above all, a call to responsibility, a call that requires a passionate and determined effort of reflection.

One can no more escape the obligation to think as one can escape the obligation to act.

And what must be thought and acted on, under the illumination  or darkness of these questions, is the possible convergence of photography and history […]

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