Mi / 10:00 – 11:30

Photographs for the Future Historian

The Triple Alliance War (1864-1870) and the Beginnings of Visual Journalism

Candela Marini, KWI Fellow

KWI & Online (Zoom)

The Triple Alliance War, also known as the Paraguayan War or the Guasú War, was the bloodiest interstate conflict in South American history. It pitted the allied forces of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil against Paraguay and by the end of it the Paraguayan population had been utterly decimated. The conflict coincided with an expansion of communication and media technologies: there was a surge in the publication of newspapers and illustrated journals, photographic studios multiplied (particularly thanks to the expanding market of cartes-de-visite), and entertainment venues and traveling companies offered a steady stream of magic lanterns and optical illusion shows. All these outlets presented their own visual approaches to the war, as the consumption of all sorts of news and images increased. Today we remember the photographs of the studio Bate & Co. the most, which present views that did not shy away from the horrors and hardships of the war. At the time, however, these photographs were at odds with the prevalent modes of visual consumption and commentators were uncertain as to what to do with them. A common response was to delegate their reading to the “future historian,” an imaginary figure of insistent presence throughout the century. This presentation thus explores the reception of these photographs, analyzing their place in the multimedia development of visual journalism and their interaction with other politically charged imagery.