Eyewitnessing evaluates the place and potency of images among other kinds of historical evidence.
By reviewing the many varieties of images across region, period, and medium, and by looking at the pragmatic uses of images (from the Bayeux Tapestry to an engraving of a printing press or a reconstruction of a building), Peter Burke illuminates the damaging consequences of our assumption that these practical uses are reflections of specific historical meanings and influences. Traditionally art historians have depended on two types of analysis when dealing with visual imagery: iconography and iconology.
Burke describes and evaluates these approaches, concluding that they are insufficient.
Focusing instead on the medium as message and on the social contexts and uses of images, he discusses both religious images and political ones, images in advertising and as commodities.
Ultimately, Burke shows how iconographic as well as post-iconographic methods--the latter including psychoanalysis, semiotics, viewer response, and deconstruction--are both useful and problematic to contemporary historians.