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3.9 out of 5 stars
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3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 19 July 2009
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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on 10 May 2000
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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on 9 August 2010
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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on 11 February 2005
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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on 21 December 2008
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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on 28 May 2010
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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on 14 August 2009
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. Unfortunately I found it to be far too wordy and too essay-like to serve as an essential guide to the subject. Had it been written in plainer english there would have been room to include information about more photographers and photographs. The author also seems to read too much meaning into some of the pictures, which probably never entered the photographer's head. Perhaps I just made a bad choice with this book, but if, like me, you are looking for a text book to give you a good grounding in the history of photographic art, I recommend that you look elsewhere.
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on 10 January 2014
we used it for my first years course book that my photography course was basically based on for the first year. very informative and goes into the basics of photography theory in a great depth. if you are interested in the theory behind photography then graham clarke's the photograph is worth reading.
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on 17 August 2016
I hated this book, the writing style is pompous and at times words were written and nothing quantifiable or tangle came from those words. One entire chapter is dedicated to misandry, which I will not subscribe to his ignorant propaganda.
I question any interpretation the author has of photographs. He tells the reader what photographs are supposed to mean and yet he cannot tell the difference between a river and a lake. Page 64, image 29, this image is discussed on page 62, Graham refers to the “presence of a lake,” when in reality the body of water a river. Apparently, Graham Clarke saw the picture and just started discussing the image without researching what the picture was of.
His interpretations for some images in the book are wrong. I do not accept his nonsense. Telling the reader what the picture means, when the picture can be interpreted as the exact opposite. Images 8, 43, & 71, I disagree with everything he claims about these pictures. Graham comes across trying to brainwash readers to become misandrist. Only read up to chapter 4, then through the book in the trash.
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on 22 February 2011
For those who have a deeper interest in the medium of photography Graham Clarke's book is a great place to start. It follows a linear path and covers Fox Talbot up to contemporary photographers. The easy to read style and non-condescending manor make it an essential companion for those who are looking to explore the side theoretical of photography. Important images are discussed with a syntax and vocabulary that encourage learning rather than being a barrier. It is a valid stepping stone before moving onto more weightier contributors like Barthes or Sontag.
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