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The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art) Paperback – 17 Aug 2009
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Essential reading for anyone who wishes to make sense of the complex and sometimes baffling world of conceptual art photography
About the Author
Charlotte Cotton was formerly Curator of Photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She is now Head of Programming at the Photographer's Gallery in London. Among her previous books are Guy Bourdin and Imperfect Beauty. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Top customer reviews
When I first started reading this book I really thought I would be quite dismissive to what it had to say, but within the first chapter I felt the way Charlotte described the ideas behind certain styles really started to resonate with me. By the end of the first chapter I was hooked, almost to the point where I was flicking ahead to see what the other chapters were called and what else I would be covering.
This book is a journey! It's really not light reading and I found I did have to concentrate on every page in order to absorb what point Charlotte was making on behalf of the photographers and styles that are represented. Some of the English used is what I consider typical of someone at Charlotte's level of understanding of art and there are times where I've known every word being used in the sentence or paragraph but struggled to understand the actual meaning. Something I found to be really useful for me was to open Wikipedia on the bits I was struggling to understand and use it in conjunction with her descriptions to get the full picture.
At the end of this book you will have an appreciation of photography's role within contemporary art even if you don't particularly like a style being discussed (I'm sorry, but I really don't like Deadpan at all). You don't have to like something to appreciate what goes into it andr what it's trying to convey.
I recommend this book to anyone who could relate to my first paragraph. It's not going to be an easy ride at times but it's most certainly an enlightening one.
Presented rather like an academic thesis, putting the works into categories is useful but it seems strange that the author needs to explain why each image has a place in contemporary fine art photography. To my mind an image should speak for itself. To be up there with the best, contemporary or otherwise, it needs ideally to stop you in your tracks, trigger an emotional reaction, engage the imagination or at least make you think. I love edgey, non conformist images which break the dreaded "rules" but I'm afraid very few in this book do that. Indeed it is their very "ordinariness" which seems to get most of them into the book at all. Very odd!
Students of photography should be aware of work by the likes of Tillmans, Gursky and Wall, but is it possible that many contemporary photographers are deliberately producing work which is mundane because that is what leading galleries and collectors want? They say if you want to get noticed then be controversial but surely not with photographs which bore the pants off everyone.
For me most of what is in the book is neither good contemporary photography nor good art. Add to that the arcane way it is written and I'm sorry but I cannot recommend it. I've given it two stars rather than one because it's cheap from Amazon. My copy will now go to a charity bookshop where potential buyers can flip through it before deciding whether or not it is for them.
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