Draw Your Weapons

Sarah Sentilles. Random House, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-59034-4
Sentilles (A Church of Her Own) delivers a learned, poetic, and interdisciplinary assessment of the ways in which the photographic image has been abused and weaponized, while also suggesting ways in which the arts can help serve as an antidote to this problem. Sentilles shows how, historically, a photograph (like memory itself) is surprisingly mutable and can be manipulated to eschew truth and dehumanize others. Staged studio-shot postcards of paid models, for example, helped French colonists in Algeria disseminate false perceptions of the country to people in France. Today, she points out, even war itself is waged directly through photographic imagery: drones fire missiles launched by operators thousands of miles away staring at real-time aerial imagery on their computer monitors. The technology is new, but the weaponization of aerial photography is as old as aerial photography itself. Discarding a linear narrative style, each chapter consists of a patchwork of very short anecdotes and meditative reflections on a wide array of seemingly disparate subjects—including Herodotus and quantum physics—that Sentilles invariably and deftly manages to string together. In one especially evocative juxtaposition, Sentilles interlays biblical passages about God’s all-seeing omniscience with a history of the development of drone technology. Approaching the topic with a prodigious ability to span disciplines and connect ideas, Sentilles addresses the need for the restoration of soul and feeling in a culture numbed by an overabundance of images mediated through television and computer screens. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/08/2017
Release date: 07/04/2017
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