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Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus: Modern Photography Explained [Paperback]

Jackie Higgins
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
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Book Description

16 Sep 2013
Why take a self-portrait but obscure your face with a lightbulb (Lee Friedlander, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts (1968)? Or deliberately underexpose an image (Vera Lutter, Battersea Power Station, XI: July 13 , 2004)? And why photograph a ceiling (William Eggleston, Red Ceiling , 1973)? In Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus , Jackie Higgins offers a lively, informed defence of modern photography. Choosing 100 key photographs with particular emphasis on the last twenty years she examines what inspired each photographer in the first place, and traces how the piece was executed. In doing so, she brings to light the layers of meaning and artifice behind these singular works, some of which were initially dismissed out of hand for being blurred, overexposed or badly composed. The often controversial works discussed in this book play with our expectations of a photograph, our ingrained tendency to believe that it is telling us the unadorned truth. Jackie Higginss book proves once and for all that theres much more to the art of photography than just pointing and clicking.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd (16 Sep 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500290954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500290958
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 14.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 26,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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If you're after a pocket primer in contemporary art photography, Why It Does Not Have to Be In Focus offers an incisive starting point. --The Daily Telegraph

It's a great book - inventive, and persuasively argued. --Amateur Photographer

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Photography as modern art 2 Nov 2013
By Eleanor TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In "Why it Does Not have to be in Focus", Jackie Higgins takes 100 photographic works (the earliest is from 1932 and most were created in the last 30 years) and explains their significance and artistry, devoting a double page to each. The six chapters group the works into portraits, document, still lifes, narrative, landscapes, and abstract.

The best aspect of this book is the range of artists and techniques on show. Sometimes the subject of the photograph is subverted or experimented with (as in the chapter on portraits and narrative); other times technique comes to the fore, for example Michael Wesely's years-long camera exposures, Gerhard Richter's doctoring of snapshots with lush smears of paint, or the many instance of cameraless photography. These are works that can be returned to again and again and they are a good starting point for further reading.

Overall, though, the book feels rather small and cramped. Half the works fall on the fold, meaning it's difficult to appreciate them as a whole, and numerous text boxes on each page jostle confusingly for attention.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seeks to redefine photography 10 Nov 2013
By Four Violets VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Flicking through the book an initial reaction might be: If I had taken that, it would have ended up in the bin. The book's subtitle is "modern photography explained" - and seeks to justify why the photos have deliberately defied the "rules" - everything you have been told about how to take a good photo seems to be overturned. Blurry, over- and under exposed, wonkily composed, some are literally photos of nothing at all.

Many will have heard the names Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman and Gillian Wearing. Others are unfamiliar to me, like Francesca Woodman who tragically committed suicide at the age of 22.

There is a double page spread for each photo, discussing how and why it was taken, with information about the photographer. Some are weird, surreal, and some are surely posturing, pretentious? Waiting for someone to point out the Emperor is not wearing any clothes?
P.53 - a photo of a light bulb! The comment is "this image could be interpreted as an amateur, almost accidental, snapshot of a ceiling." Hm. P 65 another photo which suggests a "family holiday snapshot" but it has paint smeared across it.
But there is exciting, challenging stuff, a bouquet of flowers captured in the moment of exploding, there is restaging of Old Masters and surreal fantasy scenes.

Perhaps Alex Prager, whose enigmatic photo Deborah is on page 147, sums it up: "It's not photography... they should come up with another word for what the young generation of photographers are doing." Andreas Gursky, famous for his oversized photos of supermarkets, agrees. "A fixed definition of the term "photography" has become impossible."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This book is a very good introduction to modern photography and includes 100 photos by key practitioners of the art form, and when read as a whole should leave no doubt in the reader's mind that it doesn't 'have to be in focus'. That said it does suffer from one fatal flaw and that is its compact size. The majority of photographs span both pages to some extent and as a result I was constantly frustrated by the wonderful, sometimes dream-like, images being intersected by the angle of the inside of the spine of the book. It may be the case that a larger format 'coffee table' book has been published by Thames & Hudson and if this is the case I would urge the potential buyer to plump for that book to get the full impact of the mass of creative effort included between the covers. I found the pictures of model towns made to look real, pictures of real locations made to look like models, and the descriptions of non-camera photographic techniques the most fascinating. Some pictures only made sense to me when accompanied by explanatory text and do beg the question over whether the words are wrapped around the resultant photo rather than being an explanation of the artists intent prior to developing the image. One thing is for sure and that is that there is a wide array of techniques, subject matter and styles involved in modern photography including some archaic processes resuscitated from the early days of the medium all of which are explained well by Jackie Higgins.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Invicta
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
There is a lot of information packed into this book. 100 photographs are presented in six groups: Portraits / Smile, Document / Snap, Still Life / Freeze, Narrative / Action, Landscapes / Look, and Abstract / Dissolve.

Some familiar names are included such as Andy Warhol, Martin Parr, and Henri Cartier-Bresson but with 100 different contemporary artists there is bound to be some new photographers to discover.

Underexposed, overexposed, cropped subjects, out of focus all the "errors" of photography are presented and discussed in the context of pushing the boundaries of photography.

Many of the photographs are controversial and you are unlikely to like every item in the book, but they are thought provoking which may justify the tag line "Anything can be art".

This book will be of value to anybody studying photography at A-Level or diploma level. It is also of value to any photographer interested in looking beyond the norm in photography.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Could have been interesting, . . but is not.
Published 1 month ago by M.K. VAN DEN BERG
5.0 out of 5 stars Marvellous Introduction to Modern Photography
A marvellous introduction to modern photography. Using many photographs looked at in depth to illustrate modern techniques and ways of looking at photography.
Published 1 month ago by Joe Turner
5.0 out of 5 stars Useful for Students
Great little book, for finding new artist's and photographers. It is especially useful, if you are studying either art or photography. Love the layout in the book also!
Published 6 months ago by Isobel Owen
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Range
If you're looking for a book (whether amateur or more) that will give you ideas and explanations for photographic choices by professionals then this is certainly the book for you. Read more
Published 9 months ago by lizardhat
3.0 out of 5 stars A lot (too much?) squeezed into a compact format
For book published in 2013 the basic premise seems a bit dated, as set out in the introduction its aim is to show that photography is art. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Lendrick
5.0 out of 5 stars A completely focused and enlightening account of the fuzzy world of...
I was expecting this book to be a rather narrative account, a sort of essay on modern art photography, perhaps even tackling the question of whether it has to be in focus! Read more
Published 10 months ago by emma who reads a lot
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting viewpoint and images - well laid out
I have a growing interest in photography and its potential, having begun from a point of view of simply wanting better quality pictures. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Martyn
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I thought it was.
I bought in haste thinking it was a tutorial on modern photographic techniques that might come in handy as an companion to a recently acquired DSLR. Wrong! Read more
Published 11 months ago by RM/TM
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
This is a brilliant book that both my wife and I read from the beginning to the end at one go. A must have for all people passionate about photography and more generally about... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Fabio Osta
5.0 out of 5 stars "Brilliant"
A whirlwind tour of fine art photography covering 100 photographers from the last century. I read it from cover to cover in one go because it's fun but will return to it many... Read more
Published 11 months ago by yuske tanaka
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