This essay examines the work of German-French photographer Gisèle Freund during the interwar years, with special focus on her volte-face from black-and-white depictions of the collective subject of political demonstrations in pre-exile Frankfurt to color portraits of individual French intellectuals after her arrival in Paris. Pivoting around the short period between 1938 and 1940, when using color became the standard rhetorical maneuver of Freund's portrait series, this essay will trace the photographer's change in practice as a response to the mounting crisis within France's Popular Front and its aesthetic strategies in the face of the rise of fascism. One of the essay's claims is that Freund turned color photography from a material and commercial commodity into the emblem of an alternative, mass-mediated culture—the culture of Americanism—that she, like many European intellectuals of the 1920s, imagined capable of competing with and ultimately countering the fascist mobilization of spectacle.

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