Photography: A Critical Introduction

ISBN 13: 9780415460873

Photography: A Critical Introduction

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Photography: A Critical Introduction was the first introductory textbook to examine key debates in photographic theory and place them in their social and political contexts, and is now established as one of the leading textbooks in its field. Written especially for students in further and higher education and for introductory college courses, this fully revised edition provides a coherent introduction to the nature of photographic seeing.

This revised and updated fourth edition includes:

  • key concepts, biographies of major thinkers, seminal references
  • a full glossary of terms, comprehensive bibliography and new chapter abstracts
  • updated resource information, including guides to public archives and useful websites.

Individual chapters cover:

  • key debates in photographic theory and history
  • documentary photography and photojournalism
  • personal and popular photography
  • photography and commodity culture
  • photography and the human body
  • photography as art
  • photography in the age of electronic imaging.

This lavishly illustrated fourth edition includes 105 photographs and images, of huge diversity, in full colour throughout, featuring work from Bill Brandt, Susan Derges, Rineke Dijkstra, Lee Friedlander, Fran Herbello, Hannah Höch, Karen Knorr, Dorothea Lange, Chrystal Lebas, Lee Miller, Martin Parr, Ingrid Pollard, Jacob Riis, Alexander Rodchenko, Andres Serrano and Jeff Wall.

Le informazioni nella sezione "Riassunto" possono far riferimento a edizioni diverse di questo titolo.


Liz Wells is Professor in Photographic Culture in the Faculty of Arts, University of Plymouth.

Her teaching and research covers photography history, theory, criticism; contemporary photographic practices; Independent and Experimental Film and Video, with a special interest in landscape photography.

Editorial Advisory Group member , Visual Communications, Sage

Editorial Advisory Group member, Visual Culture in Britain, University of Manchester Press.

Along with David Bate and Martin Lister, Liz Wells is currently working on a new Routledge Journal, ‘Photographies’, which will launch early 2008.


Notes on contributors

Editor’s preface


Illustration acknowledgements


1 Thinking about photography: debates, historically and now



Aesthetics and technologies

The impact of new technologies

Art or technology?

The photograph as document

Photography and the modern

The postmodern

Contemporary debates

What is theory?

Photography theory

Critical reflections on realism

Reading the image

Photography reconsidered

Theory, criticism, practice

Case study: Image analysis: the example of Migrant Mother 00

Histories of photography

Which founding father?

The photograph as image

History in focus

Photography and social history

Social history and photography

The photograph as testament

Categorical photography

Institutions and contexts

The museum

The archive

2 Surveyors and surveyed: photography out and about



Documentary and photojournalism: issues and


Documentary photography


Documentary and authenticity

The real and the digital

Surveys and social facts

Victorian surveys and investigations

Photographing workers

Photography within colonialism

Photography and war

Bearing witness

The construction of documentary

Picturing ourselves

The Farm Security Administration (FSA)

Discussion: Drum

Documentary: New cultures, new spaces

Theory and the critique of documentary

Cultural politics and everyday life

The real world in colour

Documentary and photojournalism in the global age

3 ‘Sweet it is to scan . . .’: personal photographs and popular photography



In and beyond the charmed circle of home

The public and the private in personal photography

Beyond the domestic

Fiction and fantasy

Portraits and albums

Informality and intimacy

The working classes picture themselves

Kodak and the mass market

The supersnap in Kodaland

Paths unholy and deeds without a name?

Twenty-first-century contemplations

Post-family and post-photography?

And in the galleries . . .


4 The subject as object: photography and the human body



The photographic body in crisis

Embodying social difference

Objects of desire and disgust

Objectification, fetishism, voyeurism

The anti-pornography campaigns

Photography and homoerotic desire

Class, commodities, ‘real’ bodies

Case study: La Cicciolina

Technological bodies

The camera as mechanical eye

Interventions and scientific images

The body as machine

Digital imaging and the malleable body

Photography, birth and death


5 Spectacles and illusions: photography and commodity culture


Introduction: the society of the spectacle

Photographic portraiture and commodity culture

Photojournalism, glamour and the paparrazzi

Commercial photography, image banks and corporate media

Commodity spectacles in advertising photography

The grammar of the ad

Case study: The commodification of human relations and

experience – Telenor Mobile TV, ‘Everywhere’

The photographic message

The transfer of meaning

The creation of meaning through context and photographic


Hegemony in photographic representation

Photomontage: concealing social relations

Concealing labour relations

Gender, fashion and the gaze

Fashion photography

Case study: Tourism, fashion and ‘the Other’

The context of the image

Image worlds

Case study: Benetton, Toscanini and the limits of


6 On and beyond the white walls: photography as art



The status of the photograph as art

Early debates and practices

The complex relations between photography and art

Realism and systems of representation

Photography extending art

Photography claiming a place in the gallery

The modern era

Modernism and Modern Art

Modern photography

Photo-eye: new ways of seeing

Case study: Art, design, politics: Soviet Constructivism

American formalism

Case study: Art movements and intellectual currencies:


Late twentieth-century perspectives

Conceptual art and the photographic

Photography and the postmodern

Women’s photography

Questions of identity

Identity and the multi-cultural

Photography within the institution

Appraising the contemporary

Curators, collectors and festivals

Internationalism: festivals and publishing

The gallery as context

Case study: Landscape as genre


7 Photography in the age of electronic imaging



The early 1990s and worries about the truth

The humanist response

The humanist subject


Media archaeology and other histories of photography

Further critical issues


Theory and practice

Virtual, hybrid, networked

The virtual image

Kodak and Nokia

Citizen (photo)journalist


Archives and digital image banks



Photography archives



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9780415460279: Photography: A Critical Introduction

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ISBN 10:  0415460271 ISBN 13:  9780415460279
Casa editrice: Routledge, 2009

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