The Cabbagehead

Years ago, I studied the work of a photomontage artist called John Heartfield. “Heartfield” is the adopted name of Helmut Herzfeld (1891-1968), a German adamantly opposed to the rising Nazi party in the 1920s and 1930s. Heartfield was so insightful and skilled with mass media as to have his work acknowledged at the highest levels of government: The Nazis tried to kill him (He managed to escape, on foot, and find safe haven in Prague. Later, in 1938, he escaped them in Prague and came to London). The media of the time included magazines, illustrated newspapers and radio…and the very first experiments with TV. Heartfield read and listened to everything, and published crisp, cutting expositions of Nazi lies and manipulation, such as this. The first full-page photomontage Heartfield published in 1930 seems perfectly appropriate right now. It reports a deaf, dumb reader of newspapers, his sensory perception having been destroyed by systematic lies. The caption goes: “Those who read right-wing newspapers become deaf and dumb. Take off the blindfolds!”

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