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Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus: Modern Photography Explained Paperback – 16 Sep 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd; 01 edition (16 Sept. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500290954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500290958
  • Product Dimensions: 14.8 x 1.9 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,534 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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


Customer Reviews

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By Four Violets TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 10 Nov. 2013
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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As a student studying Photography at University, I brought this book after one of my lecturers recommended it to me. It's an interesting book, that looks at a range of individual photographs by different artists and offers a brief analysis on them. Don't be fooled by the title though, as not every image in the book is out of focus and I was quite surprised at some of the work that was in there because it is not what I personally would have imagined to see in a book that explores photography as an art and unconventional ways or working. However, that said for the price it is a handy little book to have on your reading list! :)
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By Eleanor TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 2 Nov. 2013
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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I bought this because I felt - as an enthusiast and practitioner within the classical tradition - I needed to make a serious attempt to understand 'contemporary' photography. I have to say that I'm still at something of a loss to understand - not so much the explanation(s) - but why many (certainly not all) of the photographs, and photographers, in the book are considered - by some - to have any significance, or interest. Still, the book does it's very best, with good illustrations and a very impressive, wide and varied selection of photographers to explain the approaches and ideas involved.
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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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