2 comments on “The vanity of evil

  1. Hi Alistair … I share your views about the Nazis – appalling people! But I think your comments about Hitler and Hoffmann are bit 1945 – i.e. decades out of date! I’ve written a review of Hoffman’s autobiography “Hitler was my Friend”. You can find it on Amazon, My review is called: – “Hitler’s photographer returns – a VIP?” There you’ll find a different way of looking at them.

    Can Nazis be good photographers? I’m afraid they can. And Hoffmann’s work was more than crude propaganda – as my review argues.

    Kind regards, Roger Clark

    • Thanks for your comment, I’ll have a look. I will say, though, that my main argument here– in so much as there was one– was that Hoffman and all the (Axis) wartime propagandists had the task of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear because Hitler was clearly hard to photograph in a way that captured the very weird charisma he apparently had in person, and didn’t make him look goofy and slightly camp. Charlie Chaplin noticed this as early as 1940, and parodied it in The Great Dictator. In other words, Hoffman may have been a bad person but I agree that he wasn’t a bad photographer. The photos shown here would be pretty boring if they weren’t of Hitler… but Hitler was quite boring, he was the client and the client is always right, especially when he’s the dictator of the Third Reich.

      Leni Riefenstahl is another example of an undeniably talented artist who willingly misused her gifts in the service of evil; one of the things that’s troubling about her work is that it can’t be dismissed as bad even though it was produced in the service of bad people and bad policies. Triumph of the Will was groundbreaking cinema and completely achieved its aesthetic and political aims. Unfortunately those aims were mainly in the service of glorifying fascism and the Nazis. Some genuine artistry was produced with no significant intent beyond being barefaced Allied WWII propaganda, too, and also by artists forced to paint, draw or make films on pain of death or imprisonment in the USSR and Cultural Revolution China.

      Bad person/bad deeds/odious politics ≠ bad art.

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