April 12, 2006


In this morning's reading, I learned of Elias Canettti and crowds:

The crowd image generally reflects the latent fears inspired by those who have gathered in the streets. Photographers who pick out an individual marcher choose a face that reflects the emotion the photographer, or his employers, finds most compelling. Just as the eye scans the multitudes in a Bruegel painting, the lens scans the crowd, and finds it festive or restive, attentive or dull, emotional or over-passionate. But those are really metaphors: The individual stands for the crowd.

It's the photographers who stand back and try to capture the expanse of a crowd -- and yesterday the crowds were enormous -- who make the real crowd images. They have, in general, two choices. The crowd is a tapestry, an abstract pattern of color and shapes; or it is something like an engulfing sea of humanity that threatens to overwhelm. Within those two categories, there are other choices. Is the abstraction an organic shape, that flows like blood in the veins? Or is it regimented and linear, something suggestive of a military force gathered for battle? And does the oceanic crowd attack fragile markers of civilization and good order? Or does it cleanse the decadent vestiges of an old and unjust regime?

(Emphasis mine)

Posted by Dennis at April 12, 2006 4:24 AM

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