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The Photograph as Contemporary Art

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A short illustrated survey of the use of photography in contemporary art since the mid-1980s.


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A short illustrated survey of the use of photography in contemporary art since the mid-1980s.

30 review for The Photograph as Contemporary Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bethan

    I didn't like most of the photographs - soulless and horrible. Then I read the text which made some of them more interesting but it makes me wonder if they can't stand by themselves. Maybe I have been spoilt by looking at classic photographs or this isn't to my taste but it makes me realise how important beauty and softness is, especially if you don't have that interesting content. To be fair, with contemporary art it's not clear yet what is good, and much of it will fade away while I imagine I didn't like most of the photographs - soulless and horrible. Then I read the text which made some of them more interesting but it makes me wonder if they can't stand by themselves. Maybe I have been spoilt by looking at classic photographs or this isn't to my taste but it makes me realise how important beauty and softness is, especially if you don't have that interesting content. To be fair, with contemporary art it's not clear yet what is good, and much of it will fade away while I imagine the good stuff will endure over time. I scanned the most interesting bit of text - it kind of made my jaw drop: http://i237.photobucket.com/albums/ff...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sean

    Very inspiring and interesting introduction to art photography. I found it challenging and engaging and a great change from ordinary books about photography and technique. This is certainly not a book for the standard digital SLR pusher. It is a refreshing and revelatory discussion of photographic artistic expression. Although not all the works included appealed to me (I never expected them to given the breadth of talent and styles show cased) I think this is one of the best books on photography Very inspiring and interesting introduction to art photography. I found it challenging and engaging and a great change from ordinary books about photography and technique. This is certainly not a book for the standard digital SLR pusher. It is a refreshing and revelatory discussion of photographic artistic expression. Although not all the works included appealed to me (I never expected them to given the breadth of talent and styles show cased) I think this is one of the best books on photography I've read. Well recommended to those seeking more than pretty postcards or "commercial style" photography.

  3. 4 out of 5

    RC

    Excellent overview of contemporary artists. The third edition was released in 2014, but the bulk of the book seems focused on work that was produced in the late 90s and early 2000s (i.e., Struth, Gursky, Demand, Burtynsky, et al.). So you'll want Portishead and Massive Attack playing in the background. But it's a stylish and bracing collection, intelligently organized. A good introduction to current-ish trends in photography.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nathalie

    I recently finished the third edition of this book. You can find a detailed review and overview of its content on my blog , but here is the summary: I've been passionate about art photography for some years and am always looking for new books to self-educate myself. I liked the book, because it provided me with a framework of art photography by dividing a big amount of photographers (nearly 250) into different chapters. Each chapter showed a specific approach to photography. The book is a great I recently finished the third edition of this book. You can find a detailed review and overview of its content on my blog , but here is the summary: I've been passionate about art photography for some years and am always looking for new books to self-educate myself. I liked the book, because it provided me with a framework of art photography by dividing a big amount of photographers (nearly 250) into different chapters. Each chapter showed a specific approach to photography. The book is a great reference book and starting point for finding new approaches and artists to explore.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gilad Ophir

    Good and Relevant reading about contemporary photography themes and practitioners.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Megan Daly

    GOOD AS A GENERAL INTRODUCTION

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maria Jančová

    This modest book has the power to completely change the course of one's mind in the field of photography. Something I felt for a long time, that inner sense of pressure...what if an aesthetically appealing photograph is not enough? Is the medium of photography completely dried out? This peculiar book helped me understand the modern history of photography as a weapon and at the same time a victim of perpetual mutations in modern art. Nicely structured and reader-friendly resume of manifesto of This modest book has the power to completely change the course of one's mind in the field of photography. Something I felt for a long time, that inner sense of pressure...what if an aesthetically appealing photograph is not enough? Is the medium of photography completely dried out? This peculiar book helped me understand the modern history of photography as a weapon and at the same time a victim of perpetual mutations in modern art. Nicely structured and reader-friendly resume of manifesto of contemporary photography and a brief introduction to current trends in photography.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nigel Walker

    Enjoyed this. A good overview of photography at this point in time and how it has developed. You can also dip in and out rather than necessarily read sequentially which I often find helpful with book like this.

  9. 5 out of 5

    meganelizabeth

    my professor assigned this book as our textbook for a photo projects class I took in my last year of my undergrad. really enjoyed reading it and having round table discussions about the themes and artists trough each chapter. fun textbook, lots of great work and inspiring.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Federica

    4-ish, 3.5

  11. 4 out of 5

    Gahermi

    This book is very awesome.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I love photography- even do a bit of it myself - but of all the visual arts I can't help feeling it's the one least well served by written theory. Why this should be so, for one who reads and appreciates a fair deal of criticism of other genres, is a moot point, but I guess in the case of this book at least, it has something to do with the deliberative and slightly po-faced tone used to assess and analyse the pictures its author has chosen to illustrate her thesis. Or perhaps it's the very I love photography- even do a bit of it myself - but of all the visual arts I can't help feeling it's the one least well served by written theory. Why this should be so, for one who reads and appreciates a fair deal of criticism of other genres, is a moot point, but I guess in the case of this book at least, it has something to do with the deliberative and slightly po-faced tone used to assess and analyse the pictures its author has chosen to illustrate her thesis. Or perhaps it's the very notion of a thesis of photography itself. What the imputing of calculated, significance-heavy motive to the work of 'art' photographers (for want of a less ugly, pompous term) does, it seems to me, is to rob the work of what has always seemed the most important aspect of the photo as opposed to any other visual form: the moment. By positing a separate type of 'gallery' or 'art' photography, and then insisting on its conformity, witting or unwitting, with certain abstract and, sometimes, rarefied aesthetic, formal, or political principles, the picture is effectively robbed of the instantaneousness which has been its defining characteristic since Nicephore Niepce first started messing with light exposures on silver oxide. It will be noted I don't say 'its spontaneity', since I'm aware that a good deal of photographic history has had nothing to do with that, but I would submit that the two-dimensional freezing in chiaroscuro or a chemically-dictated colour-palette of a single moment is the sine qua non of photography, and the single principle which links the street-snap with the posed portrait, the elaborately set-up studio tableau with the press photographer's motor drive sequence, the wide-angle landscape composition with the staged event picture. The work of a Cartier-Bresson, a Bill Brandt, a Sebastiao Salgado, a Don McCullin, a Robert Capa have an equal right to gallery space and serious consideration as any of the pictures used as illustrations in this book - probably more, in fact, since many of them are actually terrible pictures dignified only by the aesthetic pretensions which it attributes to them.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    The categories are useful. I found a good number of photographers in this book whose work I'm going to look into. Like any survey, sometimes the surface is barely being scratched. This book also holds up some terrible work as genius, but it's not the author's fault that the emporer often wears no clothes with fine art photography. Did I just make a Juergen Teller joke? The historical info in the beginning could really be summarized like this: William Eggleston and Stephen Shore took pictures, and The categories are useful. I found a good number of photographers in this book whose work I'm going to look into. Like any survey, sometimes the surface is barely being scratched. This book also holds up some terrible work as genius, but it's not the author's fault that the emporer often wears no clothes with fine art photography. Did I just make a Juergen Teller joke? The historical info in the beginning could really be summarized like this: William Eggleston and Stephen Shore took pictures, and it was good. I wish there was some more depth here. Sall Eauclaire's The New Color Photography is head and shoulders above this book in that respect, and highly recommended. Amongst the glossings over and too brief reductive mentions of photographers I like, there were a couple of interesting pieces of analysis about art criticism that were valuable (especially about Nan Goldin's work). All in all I'm glad I spent 3 hours blasting through this book, and making a list of photographers to look up.

  14. 4 out of 5

    CM

    This small book is a survey to several key themes in art photography. With a few exceptions, the format is mostly one paragraph of about 150 words and a photo on one photographer, and then another photographer. The author tries to knit it into a cohesive whole and while I don't think it works, it's not really a fault of hers as she is obliged to cover so many personalities and history in such little space. The most visually appealing photos can be found in the first two chapters (on conceptual This small book is a survey to several key themes in art photography. With a few exceptions, the format is mostly one paragraph of about 150 words and a photo on one photographer, and then another photographer. The author tries to knit it into a cohesive whole and while I don't think it works, it's not really a fault of hers as she is obliged to cover so many personalities and history in such little space. The most visually appealing photos can be found in the first two chapters (on conceptual piece, and tableaux photography)and the last chapter (on digital photography and mixed media) ,many names worth jotting for later reference. The rest is more reliant on mild artspeak interpretation than I prefer.(Mild when compared to Artforum. So no mutitude,aporia and parafictional, but mass,flaw and almost fictional) I have nothing against such prose but I am not sure I want to interpret so many bland and mundane images ,in a row as they are in those middling chapters, with that language. If only we had been given more photos.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Grace Knowles

    A really thorough scope into photography as an artistic medium and its various subjects. Not every picture is beautifully composed and some rely on the strength of the description quite heavily, however they all bear relevance to the topics discussed. The book offers a chance for students, photographers or anyone interested in digital and analog imagery to explore it as a form packed with signs, connotation and meaning. This encourages us to explore outside of the book and attach some of the A really thorough scope into photography as an artistic medium and its various subjects. Not every picture is beautifully composed and some rely on the strength of the description quite heavily, however they all bear relevance to the topics discussed. The book offers a chance for students, photographers or anyone interested in digital and analog imagery to explore it as a form packed with signs, connotation and meaning. This encourages us to explore outside of the book and attach some of the suggesting readings and interpretations onto all photography. The author chooses only to show one image for each artist, a choice she explains in the introduction; I would suggest that if you enjoy a particular image look further into that artists works as you are guaranteed to discover more. Overall I loved the book and have found it incredibly beneficial to a current university project, however I feel that the curation of images/photographers could have been stronger and more information could have been added on processes and types of imaging.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David

    A graphically well documented introduction to the place of photography in contemporary art, although it probably needs more than a couple hundreds pictures and basic descriptions to go around such a broad topic, it didn't feel like a bad place to start. The author tried to categorize photographs and their work in 7 different sections which form the different chapters of the book, classified according to working methods, the subjects they study, their aesthetics (to be being emotionally neutral A graphically well documented introduction to the place of photography in contemporary art, although it probably needs more than a couple hundreds pictures and basic descriptions to go around such a broad topic, it didn't feel like a bad place to start. The author tried to categorize photographs and their work in 7 different sections which form the different chapters of the book, classified according to working methods, the subjects they study, their aesthetics (to be being emotionally neutral or not ?), their place in photo/art history and the use of new techniques, their theatrical aspect (or the lack of it), their intimacy, the story(ies) they tell and so on. This kind of classification is of course only one possible approach to categorizing it all - and many works are "trans-genre" and would probably required to be studied longer...which is not the purpose of this book. A good and short book, no less, no more.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ray Dunsmore

    A very interesting compilation of recent developments in contemporary photographic art. Though the book often tends to get a bit up-its-ass meta-referential by describing photographs as being a metaphor for the act of photographing someone/something or the subject becoming a photograph. It's a nice interpretation, but once it's used for most of a chapter, several chapters in a row, it gets tiring and you start to wonder about the limits of the author's perception of things. Still a great source A very interesting compilation of recent developments in contemporary photographic art. Though the book often tends to get a bit up-its-ass meta-referential by describing photographs as being a metaphor for the act of photographing someone/something or the subject becoming a photograph. It's a nice interpretation, but once it's used for most of a chapter, several chapters in a row, it gets tiring and you start to wonder about the limits of the author's perception of things. Still a great source of interesting modern takes on photography.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tracy

    This is a great introduction to contemporary photography and the variety of subjects and techniques that have been explored by a wide selection of artists. The color plates are great, and the text is concise with well chosen words. My one complaint is the size of the reproductions, but this is just a gateway book. Anyone using this book should be looking at the monographs of each artist, or larger books about contemporary photography. It's also a sound source of understanding how contemporary This is a great introduction to contemporary photography and the variety of subjects and techniques that have been explored by a wide selection of artists. The color plates are great, and the text is concise with well chosen words. My one complaint is the size of the reproductions, but this is just a gateway book. Anyone using this book should be looking at the monographs of each artist, or larger books about contemporary photography. It's also a sound source of understanding how contemporary photography was shaped by forces within and without the art/photography world.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Cyndihopper

    Cotton explores many contemporary photographers in her book, both well-known and obscure, and breaks them down into seven "Categories". It is good exposure to new artists working in these fields and also a clear picture of how different each artist can interpret Cotton's predetermined "categories". This book is a good and quick read for anyone who needs a refresher course on contemporary photography. Unfortunately, she doesn't spend much time on any one artist, but then again, it' a short book! Cotton explores many contemporary photographers in her book, both well-known and obscure, and breaks them down into seven "Categories". It is good exposure to new artists working in these fields and also a clear picture of how different each artist can interpret Cotton's predetermined "categories". This book is a good and quick read for anyone who needs a refresher course on contemporary photography. Unfortunately, she doesn't spend much time on any one artist, but then again, it' a short book! (only 218 pages with 217 color plates!)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    217 plates accompanied by 217 paragraphs representing the ouevre of 217 artists, to the degree that that is possible. Such an undertaking–describing the practice of an expansive body of artists, working in divergent ways–is inevitably cursory. While the thematic elements do provide a satisfactory portrayal of the various styles characterizing contemporary photography the bland writing style becomes tiered over the course of the 217, heavily illustrated, pages.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nam Pham

    This is quite a general introduction to contemporary photograph art, covering a large range of practices in a very open-minded attitude. There is a lack of criticism, for I believe the author's only aim is to introduce the breadth of contemporary photography rather than going deeply into any particular topic. Also, the book covers mostly Western practices and only includes several Asian prominent photographers.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    this is a good introduction to photography as fine art and the genres within it, whilst it never goes into detail on any one artist (the exceptions being Diane Arbus and Cindy Sherman who get almost 2 pages each!). it sticks to a format of 1 photo and 1 paragraph per artist. this book contains enough food for thought and has an extensive further reading list should any of the topics or individuals contained.

  23. 4 out of 5

    M

    An interesting overview of various styles and approaches to photography, let down by some surprisingly poor writing and general shallowness; the latter is to be expected when such a small book attempts to cover so much territory, but unfortunately the price is a certain frustration on the part of any reader who would like to hear about any of said territory in more detail.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Filled with information of photographers, styles, views, angles of many kind. This book teaches you all categories in photography. This is no step by step book. By the time you get finished with this book, you'll most certainly know more photographers than before. I recommend this book to newcomers of photography.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nuri

    I find this book quite intriguing. Highly readable for non-photographers like myself. I like the fact that a broad selection of photographers are featured in the book with so many different techniques & ideas. I have to admit I tried copying some of the styles I saw in the book when I snap my photos just for fun.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ben Gallman

    This book helped me get a stronger grip on contemporary photography. Overall, I thought Cotton did a pretty good job at tackling a difficult subject in such a condensed book. I would have like to have read more though.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    I liked this one. It really went through a lot of artists, so it was very broad in scope. Don't read this if you want to get an in depth look at any one contemporary photographer, it goes through all of them

  28. 5 out of 5

    Yanic

    This book is interesting but there's something missing, I'm not sure what. It's divided in chapters with diferent subjects, and within these chapters some artists are introduced and discussed. I think that the discussion could be better and treat others aspects of the photography as art.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Blanche

    Concise and well-written. She covers most of today's important photographers. Best part -- I met Charlotte Cotton at work the other day and she fell in love with my dog. How can you not like her book?

  30. 4 out of 5

    Greg Goodale

    I like this as a sweeping survey of major trends in art photography. However each artist is treated very superficially and the writing consists mostly of knitting together short descriptions of work, with no memorable analysis that I can recall (!).

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