History may be a slaughter pen, but we didn’t always get to watch. Now we do, up to a point, and some social commentators are sure to become censorious. It is customary to fault photography for turning disaster into a spectacle, but the critique is mistaken in many ways beyond simply blaming the messenger. Sure, you can gawk if you like, but there is so much more going on–in the photograph and in the complex dynamics of public response. More to the point, the photographs of the unfolding catastrophe in Japan provide a remarkable opportunity to think about where modern societies are and where they are going. We’ve listed below some of the slide shows (as of today) that offer particularly rich archives.
ABC News has joined before and after photos in a smart format that allows you to scroll back and forth from past to present.