LIFE Magazine is for people who can not read
I was listening to a broadcast radio talk show a few days ago and a former school teacher called up and said, “LIFE magazine is for people who can’t read.”
So, is that what she taught generations of grammar school or high school students? Are paintings and sculpture also for people who can not read? What about architecture? Does architecture have anything to communicate?
Why the primacy of the text? Photography, painting – no matter what the genre, sculpture, architecture and other forms of non-verbal or non-textual expression have much to communicate. “LIFE magazine is for people who can not read”. Is this the product of a limited education? Or the source of future generations of limited education? Or, perhaps both?
Inside a Nazi Christmas Party, 1941
Of course the real topic under discussion on this talk radio show was a set of color photographs that LIFE magazine published showing Hitler celebrating Christmas in Nazi Germany in 1941. Was it really a religious celebration by the Nazi’s?
So, take a look for yourself –
Check out thousands of LIFE photographs –
And then wonder about the state of education and if photography is somehow a diminished or impoverished form of expression in comparison to written text. Perhaps photographs say what can not be said in speech or writing. Perhaps photography and visual perception is a form of communication that skips the intermediary of verbal or textual translation. Perhaps visual communication is a primary link to an emotional communication and the verbal or textual translation of that emotional connection is impoverished and secondary. Isn’t part of what makes great literature the ability of the writer to evoke images in your mind to tell the story? Writing is in the service of imagery. “LIFE magazine is for people who can’t read.” Think again.
From the text accompanying the photograph
“We cannot accept that a German Christmas tree has anything to do with a crib in a manger in Bethlehem. It is inconceivable for us that Christmas and all its deep soulful content is the product of an oriental religion.” These were words of Nazi propagandist Friedrich Rehm in 1937, in pre-war attempts to take religion out of the holiday by harking back to the pagan Julfest, a Germanic festival of the winter solstice that was later absorbed into Christmas. (An eye-opening 2009 exhibit at Cologne’s National Socialism Documentation Centre displayed early Nazi propaganda employed to make over the holidays: swastika-shaped cookie-cutters; sunburst tree-toppers, to replace the traditional ornament Nazis feared looked too much like the Star of David; and rewritten lyrics to carols that excised all references to Christ.) But by the time of the 1941 Christmas party featured here, with World War II at its height — America had officially entered the fray just weeks earlier — the focus shifted to more practical matters. Rather than trying to dissuade millions of Germans from celebrating Christmas the way they always had, the Reich instead encouraged them to send cards and care packages to the troops.