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The Photography Reader [Hardcover]

Liz Wells
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 85.00
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Book Description

14 Nov 2002
The Photography Reader is a comprehensive introduction to theories of photography; its production; and its uses and effects. Including articles by photographers from Edward Weston to Jo Spence, as well as key thinkers like Roland Barthes, Victor Burgin and Susan Sontag, the essays trace the development of ideas about photography. Each themed section features an editor's introduction setting ideas and debates in their historical and theoretical context.

Sections include: Reflections on Photography; Photographic Seeing; Coding and Rhetoric; Photography and the Postmodern; Photo-digital; Documentary and Photojournalism; The Photographic Gaze; Image and Identity; Institutions and Contexts.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (14 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415246601
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415246606
  • Product Dimensions: 2.9 x 18.4 x 25.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,462,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘A valuable and accessible resource … an outstanding aid for photography students and enthusiasts … highly recommended.’ - Media International Australia inc Culture & Policy

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
WHAT DISTINGUISHES PHOTOGRAPHY from other means of visual representation? Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable book on photographic theory 18 Feb 2010
This book is fabulous! Gives you a solid breakdown of some of the most important essays ever written in photographic theory. It takes some intense concentration but the read is both rewarding in the end and beneficial to those who are wanting to become a photographer or critique in conceptual art.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fount of all wisdom 11 Aug 2010
If you are studying photography as a student (or even just as a keen photographer) this is the book for you. For students this is the source book and sacred reference for a constant stream of Distinctions. So cool to have all the best reference sources in one handy book. Need to write a seriously arty and learned essay? No problem, a good hour of skimming and all the references and quotes are yours!

The real joy of this book though is that it's a real voyage of discovery, and jumping off point, for those of us who actually take that study seriously. It's a superb read, a distillation of much photographic and semiotic wisdom into one book, and through that read it leads, internet-like, to a myriad links to other sources and essays.

If you have any interest in photographic analysis, and to be honest, you'd hardly be reading this review otherwise, buy it.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Photography Reader 7 Nov 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a very good outline of many of the main themes in photography - particularly if you are studying photography or visual media in a cultural context. Difficult but rewarding!
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  9 reviews
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Philosophical Photography 14 April 2008
By Conrad J. Obregon - Published on Amazon.com
As the editor Liz Wells remarks in her introduction, this book is concerned with histories of ideas about photography. Even though Wells herself falls into the trap of referring to the materials in this book as photography criticism, this is a book of readings in critical theory of photography, and as such is concerned more with history, sociology, semiotics, aesthetics, and epistemology. All of the works in the book were created after 1930 and include the writings of many of the great public intellectuals, like Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag and Umberto Eco.

After a general introduction by Wells, the book is divided into several parts, each of which deals with a particular aspect of photographic critical theory. Again Wells sets the scene and then a number of voices are heard from, either offering original theory, or analyzing a theory, or finding fault with a theory. For example, the general section offers selections from Barthes, Sontag and Walter Benjamin as well as articles by authors who clarify the thoughts of these writers. Thus W.J.T. Mitchell's article on Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" made explicit for me the basic conflict between Benjamin's respect for the aura of the original work of art and his optimism about the ability of mechanical reproduction to make art available to the public.

The book covers a number of subjects in critical theory, such as photography and postmodernism, where several authors explain what the postmodern is in photography (I hasten to add "in photography" since the nature of postmodern seems to vary amongst the arts), and for me at least, explained what elements distinguished postmodernism from what I perceive to be the main stream of art photography. There is even a section on digital photography, which spent a great deal of print on an old question, how real is photography?

There is nothing about photographic technique here. In fact one question that is regularly on my mind when I read photographic critical theory is "how much use can this work be to the photographer?" Some photographers will find the discussion of the nature of images interesting, but I was hard pressed to understand how all of the broad theory will help in making a single image that better expresses the photographer's vision of his work. (Interestingly, photographic critical theory may have diverged in this respect from literary critical theory where knowledge of some of the theory might help an author write a more effective work.) Moreover, except to the extent that photographic critical theory has identified certain broad philosophical trends in images, I'm not certain that all of this theory will help a single viewer to come to grips with a single photograph.

Many of the concepts in this book are hard to grasp and I expect that many of the selections will require several readings to understand. However, as I've said elsewhere, reading the originals of the articles that Wells has assembled is probably the best way to come to terms with the deep roots that photography has sunk into modern culture.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for Photographers 10 Jun 2008
By J. Geller - Published on Amazon.com
This book includes seminal essays that all photography students should read such as those from Rosler, Sontag and Barthes to name a few. It also includes others that discuss the role of the photographer in the Post Modernist, digital artworld. Together the essays create a discussion about why we photograph the things around us and what happens to the meaning of the image when seen by others.

I reccomend this anthology with 4 rather than 5 stars only because some of the essays are not complete and the book began to fall apart before I finished it. Many of the full version of the essays are available in the Context of Meaning, another highly reccomended photo-theory anthology. If available buy this in hard cover. It is a great introduction for college-aged students to the various writings on photogaphy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for any photographer 2 Mar 2011
By jfaulkphoto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
My advanced photo teacher had us purchase this book for class. It is NOT an instruction/technique guide of any kind. Instead, it is more of a collection of short-essays written by photographers, and lovers of the art. It is very philosophical, and a few of my classmates dislike this, however I find it to be very interesting.
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read not enough images 28 May 2013
By Scott Taylor - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I realize this text is called a "reader" but for a reader on photography I would have liked more illustrations of the concepts.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great photography theory book. 23 Mar 2013
By Eduardo G - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a great source to understand some of the basis in defining photography and its concepts, very recommendable for students of still image arts.
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