With news of Osama bin Laden’s death last month, international media attention quickly turned from whether or not he’d been killed to whether or not the Obama administration would release any photos of him. When TIME covered the President’s decision to withhold images, the editors turned to MFA Art Criticism and Writing Department Chair David Levi Strauss for perspective. Drawing a comparison with Argentine revolutionary leader Che Guevara, Strauss writes, “Osama bin Laden was no Che, but he was an extremely charismatic figure and a master of iconopolitics who meticulously crafted and controlled his image, and that image will be around for a long time. So the handling of his image upon his death at the hands of the Americans had to be very carefully considered.” (Read the full story here)
In his latest piece for TIME, Strauss tackles the topic of photo doctoring, as illustrated by the decision of two Orthodox Jewish publications to remove Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Director of Counterterrorism Audrey Tomason from the now-historic shot of President Obama and his national security team watching the live raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound. Strauss acknowledges this as a “politically loaded erasure,” but also points out that even “the ‘original’ image released by the White House had already been digitally altered.” He goes on to suggest: “At a time when any photographic image, old or new, can be digitized at will, we should not believe any image that we see in print or online or anywhere else.” (Read the full story here)
Strauss has written widely about art and politics, including an influential essay on the Abu Ghraib photos, and will be regularly contributing to TIME about images and their effects.