NICHOLAS MIRZOEFF, a media, culture and communication professor at New York University, wants to justify the study of visual culture by describing, accessibly, how strange our visual world has become.
This has been done before. In 1972 artist and writer John Berger made Ways of Seeing, a UK TV series and a book. This was also the year that astronaut Harrison Schmitt took the Blue Marble picture of Earth from Apollo 17, arguably the most reproduced photograph ever.
By contrast, in How to See the World, Mirzoeff’s mascot shot is the selfie taken by astronaut Akihiko Hoshide during his 2012 spacewalk. This time, Earth is reflected in Hoshide’s visor: the planet is physically different and changing fast. Transformations that would have been invisible to humans because they took place so slowly now occur in a single life. “We have to learn to see the Anthropocene,” writes Mirzoeff.