60s America Through Images

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The 1960s proved a tumultuous time for the United States in how there were so many historical developments in the mere space of a decade. Throughout the 60s Americans experienced and witnessed many events such as war, civil rights campaigns and protests, assassinations, technological developments and the emergence of a popular culture and counterculture. Photography came to the fore at the start of the 20th century and a huge emphasis was put on the visual to experience culture. The historical developments of the 60s can be seen clearly through the visual culture as they portray the historical events of the time through the medium of imagery. With the growing popularization of television, imagery could be rapidly distributed to each home and this is one of the main reasons that visual culture had such a profound effect on those who witnessed the events portrayed. “By the end of the decade 90% of Americans had access to television sets” this staggering amount of led to a high level of influence though reception of imagery. For instance when we look at the portrayal of the typical American family one would often see an image of a close-knit family sitting together watching television. In the space of a decade from the 1950s television was incorporated in the American family (see fig. 1.). Pictures such as this defined the family of the late 50s early 60s and incorporated the television into American families. With the television being a vital part of family life there was a constant flow of imagery available for the family to view. We can clearly see through images such as this that the US population began to regularly consume what the television provided. The photograph captures the importance television as a family pastime and how it gradually became the main focus of family time. Therefore we can see that the visual culture through the media such as television, newspapers and the images they provided to the population had a serious impact on historical developments of the 1960s. Information was constantly received by the population usually alongside images of events and the visual culture affected the historical developments of the 60s in how it influenced reactions to events. It is also evident that visual culture heavily influenced the 1960s due to the amount of images and videos from the time that are still available for viewing today. Figure 1. Everett F. Baumgardner. Family watching Television. 1958. Photograph. Nation Archives and Records of Administration. http://web.archive.org/web/20071226081329/teachpol.tcnj.edu/amer_pol_hist/thumbnail427.htm One of the most important events to happen in the 1960s which greatly affected the US was its part of was the Vietnamese War. The war had a vital part in the 60s decade as it spanned through the whole of the 60s up until 1975. The war was the first of its kind as it was reported in great detail through television and newspapers. Essentially the Vietnam War and visual culture of the time went hand in hand as the relationship between the two was constant throughout the 60s. For over a decade people could get a visual insight into the war which had never been available before and many believe this is one of the main reasons that the US lost the war. President Lyndon seen this and argued that “if the previous wars had been televised, the United States would not have preserved in fighting them. Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman would have lost support for their policies even as he lost support for his, forcing the abandonment of his campaign for his re-election.” It was due to the constant visual bombardment of the ugly realities of war on the US people that turned them against the war and forced many to protest the war (fig. 2 and fig. 3). Figure 2. Horst Faas. A father holds the body of a child. 1964. Photograph. Available at Photographer Collection: Horst Faas...
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