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The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History (Oxford History of Art) [Paperback]

Graham Clarke
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 April 1997 Oxford History of Art
a photograph? Graham Clarke gives a clear and incisive account of the photograph's historical development from Joseph Nicéphore Niépce's early `heliograph' to the classic compositions of Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Steiglitz, to the striking post-modern strategies of Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, and Victor Burgin. This book is a ground-breaking examination of the main subject areas - landscape, the city, portraiture, the body, and reportage - with detailed analysis of exemplary images in terms of their cultural and ideological contexts.

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The Photograph: A Visual and Cultural History (Oxford History of Art) + On Photography + Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (Vintage Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; 1st Edition edition (10 April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192842005
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192842008
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.8 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 24,499 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

From the first misty `heliograph' taken by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826 to the classic compositions of Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Steiglitz, to the striking postmodern strategies of Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman and Victor Burgin, the history of photography is a record of dazzling and penetrating images. But photographs are also the most pervasive images of our time, infinite in their capacity to record and make moments significant, granting status to everything they touch.

So how do we read a photograph? In a series of brilliant discussions of major themes and genres, Graham Clarke gives a clear and incisive account of the photograph's historical development, and elucidates the insights of the most interesting thinkers on the subject such as Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag. At the heart of the book is his ground-breaking examination of the main subject areas - landscape, the city, portraiture, the body, and reportage - and his detailed analysis of exemplary images in terms of their cultural and ideological contexts.

A readable text discusses the way in which we see and interpret photographs. (The Bookseller)

Fully and often surprisingly illustrated, carefully annotated and captioned, each combines a historical overview with a nicely opinionated individual approach. (Independent on Sunday)

Read this book and you will never look at a photograph in the same way again. (House & Garden)

concise yet comprehensive, and wonderful value (The Irish Times (Dublin))

An engaging, image-studded survey... Clarke is particularly good at playing two images off against one another to emphasise the cultural assumptions underlying each... Clarke raises fascinating questions about how the portrait seeks to encode social identity. In his representation of landscape, he deftly covers both the picturesque tradition and its opposite, the scientific orientation that viewed photography as a means of mapping and administering land. (V. Penelope Pelizzon, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science Vol.40 No.2)

Clarke does an admirable job of condensing theoretical debates concerning the reading of images (Yorkshire Post (Leeds))

An important part of the Oxford History of Art series ... It's an enormous subject, but it's tackled in a tremendously accessible manner. A must for anyone interested in taking seriously good pictures. (Swansea South Wales Evening Post)

About the Author

a superb piece of publishing (Rupert Christiansen, Spectator)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
In a world dominated by visual images the photograph has become almost invisible. Read the first page
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Concordance
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I've read a lot of technical, 'how to' photography books; I've also read lots of books on composition and lighting. I am a very keen amateur photographer and I understand the techhnical bits, I was more interested in the meanings and interpretations of photographs. But I was always left wanting for a book that gave you just a little bit more than 'how to' ...

If you've ever felt the same way, there's a good chance that Clarke's book is the one that you are looking for. This could easily be used as a reference work for an undergrad degree (if not post-grad), yet it's always an easy read and interesting to pick up and browse a particular section, or just flick through the many interesting and high quality pictures. This last is something worth emphasising - this is a quality book on thick, quality paper and the picture reproduction is great.

It's just as scholarly as anything by Sontag or Barthes, but written in a much more accessible way:

"In a world dominated by visual images the photograph has become almost invisible. We take photographs, look at them endlessly, and carry them around with us so that their currency is pervasive. They are one of the most common of objects that change hands every day. And yet such a common status belies their underlying complexity and difficulty; for we are always left with the primary and shifting question: what precisely is a photograph?"

Just so you get an idea of what this book contains, the contents is as follows.

1. What is a photograph?
2. How do we read a photograph?
3. Photography and the nineteenth century
4. Landscape in photography
5. The city in photography
6. The portrait in photography
7. The body in photography
8. Documentary photography
9. The photograph as fine art
10. The photograph manipulated
11. The Cabinet of Infinite Curiosities
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative and engaging 9 Aug 2010
By brainleek007 TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've used this relatively small book now for two years as an aid to study and it's been invaluable.

This book is not a guide on how to take photographs but an academic and theoretical look at how photographs work and what they can mean to us, and how these meanings come about. When I started reading this book I had no clue about art at all (still don't ;) )and this book definitely requires a certain level of knowledge around the subjects and debates to get the full gist of what's going on. However, that's not to say it's inaccessible and if anything the book did double duty for me because it highlighted my areas of ignorance.

The information is presented in a series of essays which highlight the photograph's relationship with various subjects, some analogous to genres, be it The City, Portraits, Art etc. Each essay is a very well informed and well considered look at how photographs function in those genres by bringing to the fore the main debates.

Illustrations are present throughout; there are not hundreds but the ones there are are commented on insightfully and with full relevance to the rest of the text.

As my knowledge grows in other areas grows I've found myself returning to this book over and over and re-reading chapters where relevant. I've always been able to further enhance my understanding by returning to this book. Every time I read a chapter another piece of the the overall puzzle falls into place or a perspective I've forgotten is mentioned thus giving a different interpretation on the area I'm researching.

All in all a very informative book full of useful information without being too dry.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Reading for Students 28 May 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As the title says really; this book is essential reading for Photography students at any level, or for those whose are looking to expand & investigate further their photographic practice. Covering photgraphy from it's inception to modern contemporary practitioners, Clarke dissects the medium & clearly explains the concepts, intention & methodologies using masters of the art, including Barthes, Sontag,as well as coving all the genres. A must read !!!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An ideal approach... 11 Feb 2005
Format:Paperback
I used this book as part of a photography module on my degree and found it a very useful and clear cut.
The ideas, advice and conventions in the book will help any photogrophy student as well as many artists on their way to creating well thought out imagery.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly reccomended!! 21 Dec 2008
Format:Paperback
This is such a useful book. Full of information of different types of photography such as portrait, landscape, the body, the city etc etc. It includes the historic background and images by some of the best photographers of all time

Good for a general intrest in photogaphy and especially as a source for students who study- it will definatly come in handy when im writing essays for college. One of the most reccomended books on photography.

BTW-Not about technical aspects or how to use cameras, lighting etc.
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clarkes accessable masterpiece! 10 May 2000
Format:Paperback
Graham Clarke has given the kind of theoratical advice which will help any Photography student through the hard times a marvelous read which is easy to follow and explains the codes and conventions in which we are all governed by.. A must for all photographers!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The photograph: A visual and cultural history. 26 Dec 2011
Format:Paperback
This is really helpful for photography students needing a overview of the history of photography and a background to noted photographers work and its cultural background.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
good
Published 1 month ago by boris
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A good background on photographs
Published 1 month ago by Laura Davies
5.0 out of 5 stars Key Text for Photography Students.
This book gives a thorough induction into photography as a major cultural force. It clearly and logically drives awareness of factors to be considered when reading, de-... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Simon Evans
1.0 out of 5 stars Book is great, but the condition and shipping is unexaptable!
I am so much disappointed with Amazon.co.uk. The shipping and the condition of the books are unacceptable in the way that every time I receive my order, the books are damaged! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Oksana
5.0 out of 5 stars course book
we used it for my first years course book that my photography course was basically based on for the first year. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mr. G. R. Moyes
4.0 out of 5 stars An essential guide for students and lecturers.
For those who have a deeper interest in the medium of photography Graham Clarke's book is a great place to start. Read more
Published on 22 Feb 2011 by Mr. N. E. Brewer
1.0 out of 5 stars Over-rated
Typical of the pseudo-art crowd, this book is long-winded and the points which are made are obvious in the extreme. Read more
Published on 10 Nov 2010 by Darryl Godfrey
3.0 out of 5 stars Learn to enjoy photography
Enjoying a photograph is not a purely esthetic matter -knowing the photo story, knowing the life course ot the author is being able to go deeper into what it tells. Read more
Published on 18 May 2010 by Eng A. Siza Vieira
1.0 out of 5 stars toiletworthy
16 of 22 people found the following review helpful:
Toiletworthy, June 16, 2001
By A Customer

I've read scores of books about photo history and criticism but... Read more
Published on 3 Sep 2009 by C.Amari
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing account of the history of the photograph
After thoroughly enjoying EH Gombrich's The Story of Art, I was hoping that this book might do the same for the history of the photograph. Read more
Published on 14 Aug 2009 by M. Trigg
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