This article explores how, in the interwar period, wire and radio photography developed in tandem with an expanding illustrated daily press and transnationally organised news photography services. It argues that in the aftermath of World War I, the press adopted wire photography as a way to mediate hopes and anxieties for a new world characterised by shrinking distances, increasing global contact and interconnection, and an accelerated pace of daily life. The article, which analyses art historian Aby Warburg’s Atlas Mnemosyne, cabled photos of Charles Lindbergh’s reception in Paris in 1927, and radiophotos of the Hindenburg disaster sent from New York to Berlin, shows how image transmission enabled photography to break free of the purely indexical or documentary function often imposed on it and become the symbol of a blossoming global culture.
Jonathan Dentler is a PhD candidate in the Department of History and a recipient of the Visual Studies Graduate Certificate at the University of Southern California. In 2018, he was a fellow at the Terra Foundation for American Art Summer Residency in Giverny. His forthcoming dissertation, “Scooping the World. Wire Service Photography and the Globalization of Spectatorship, 1920–1955”, considers the advent of electric picture transmission in the press and the way it reshaped the contours of everyday experience and visual culture.
Keywords: Aby Warburg, wire photography, Hindenburg disaster, Charles Lindbergh, globalisation