This is a book about the way that artists--both writers and photographers--approach their subjects and the choices they must make in creating art from their perceptions of other people's lives and experiences.
For the photographer, Carol Shloss notes, these choices come at the actual moment when he stands before his subject, seeking to capture it in some way within the technical limitations of the camera frame. For the writer--particularly the writer who chooses to seek out others and to make art
from "opening up" to the presence of another person--the choices made are more hidden but nevertheless similar to the ones faced by the photographer: Shloss shows how the process of constituting a text and finding its material is in many ways like using a camera. Throughout, Shloss stresses the
significance of the relationship between artist and subject, noting, "Whatever its desired end, art is drawn out of separateness and...the artist's terms of engagement with his or her subject are manifold, with referents in fear and in hope, in desire, fascination and hunger."
Filled with fascinating glimpses into the ways both writers and photographers work, the book explores the links between the two in chapters on Hawthorne and daguerreotypy; Henry James and Alvin Langdon Coburn; Theodore Dreiser, Alfred Stieglitz, and Jacob Riis; John Dos Passos and the Soviet
cinema; James Agee and Walker Evans; John Steinbeck and Dorothea Lange; and Norman Mailer and World War II combat photography (especially that of Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White). Illustrated with some 40 photos, In Visible Light reveals in penetrating detail the values that underpin
literature and photography, demonstrating that "art and politics are of the same metaphysical substance."