Siegfried Kracauer started his career with film reviews during the Weimar period in Germany (pre-WW2) and expanded his interests to detailed discussions of film, photography, and history, and the interactions among these disciplines. He was especially interested in how films model themselves to the tastes of their audiences, who in turn, model themselves after films, and how this shapes the evolution of the culture.Exiled in the 1930s, Kracauer lived for a while in Paris and finally settled in New York. In exile, he viewed himself as a cultural observer, a “time-traveler.” He wrote a lot about how history relates to time while photography is in the moment and totally visual.
The book seems to be about Kracauer, but Barnouw says it’s not. She says it’s about “the significance of his critical realism for cultural modernity.”