WHM: Images Exercise Question 4 - What are the social conditions of the use of the image?



Be the Historian!

What are the social conditions of the use of the image?

When historians study an image, they look at it in its historical context and try to understand what it meant to people when it was produced. To do so, they think about the motivations of the people who created it and the reactions of the audiences that might have viewed it.

On September 27, 1945, General Douglas MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito of Japan took a photograph together. It was published in newspapers throughout Japan and the United States. This photograph was taken only weeks after Japan’s surrender to the United States at the end of World War II. This also marked the beginning of the seven-year U.S. occupation of Japan.

General MacArthur headed the U.S. occupation of Japan, and held far-reaching powers to dictate public policy. His task was to demilitarize and democratize a country that had been viewed by the U.S. as a mortal enemy. General MacArthur carefully staged the photograph he took with Emperor Hirohito (the sovereign and most visible representative of the former enemy nation), and he did so with this very important political goal in mind.

How would you have set up the photograph if you were General MacArthur?

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