JAE EMERLING PDF

Synopsis Photography: History and Theory introduces students to both the history of photography and critical theory. From its inception in the nineteenth century, photography has instigated a series of theoretical debates. In this new text, Jae Emerling therefore argues that the most insightful way to approach the histories of photography is to address simultaneously the key events of photographic history alongside the theoretical discourse that accompanied them. While the nineteenth century is discussed, the central focus of the text is on modern and contemporary photographic theory. Particular attention is paid to key thinkers, such as Baudelaire, Barthes and Sontag.

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Start your review of Photography: History and Theory Write a review Shelves: social-theory , photography , art I think this book is more a history of theory about photography, than a history of photography per se. Dont get me wrong it is no less valuable for that but you dont come away from this book knowing all that much about the dates and key moves in the development of photographic techniques in anything like a systematic way.

Now, Im not sure I need a systematic knowledge of that history but it really is implied by the title. Where this book is particularly good is in giving a series of glosses on I think this book is more a history of theory about photography, than a history of photography per se.

Where this book is particularly good is in giving a series of glosses on key texts from the history of the theory of photography. The book looks in quite some depth at many of the main problems of theory around the photographic image. I will need to read this book again — when I get time — but the key ideas I want to highlight here are around the indexical nature of the photographic image and the role of agency in photographic reproduction.

Mostly because I think in some ways these might be the key ideas propelling theory around photographs. Many theorists have been convinced that what is most important about photographs is that they are indexes — in much the same way that we have an index finger, also known as a pointing-finger — an index points to something else.

So, smoke is an index of fire, for example — you see one and you assume the other. No one says a photograph is what it is an image of. Clearly, if you want to talk to your mum you would be better finding her, than finding a photograph of her. This indexical nature of the photograph is anything but simple. Not least because Peirce the American Saussure spoke about such systems of communication as not only being indexical, but also symbolic and iconic — hard not to think, then that photography might also be equally likely to be symbolic or iconic.

So, is photograph merely an aid to memory? Clearly not — I mean, it obviously impacts on our emotions in ways that have much more to do with how we have been acculturated than merely in reminding us of things from our past. Our grandparents as children, for instance. Perhaps we need to start by thinking about the most obvious thing about photographs — that they are eternally silent. This is particularly hard for us to do, I think. We are meaning making machines and as such we impose meaning on everything we see.

It is hard for us to hear the silence of photographs because of this endless chatter of our making meaning of those images. This is the indexical role of photography brought to the fore. This kind of ordering of the world — what can and should be referred to as hegemonic — is the exercise of a particular kind of power.

Where this is particularly interesting in this book is in its discussion of a photographic exhibition that is often referred to in these texts — The Family of Man exhibition. Not exactly one that was likely to challenge the existing power structures in place in our society. And I think this is where agency plays its part in photography. Even those who consider photographs as unproblematic indexes — and it is hard not to see them as this on some level, you push the button and what is before you is frozen in time.

You push the button, and unlike a pencil, the camera takes everything in seemingly without choice. But we are eternally fooled by the lie that the camera never lies. That what a camera shows is exactly what we would have seen if we were there to see it. Except, of course, what a camera actually shows is nothing at all like what we would have seen. It is a bit like what we would see if we closed one eye, kept insanely still and were looking through a hole and if we were somehow able to get time to stop.

There is also the fact that photographs are often taken because we are motivated to take them. Rather even the most banal of photographs are an attempt at narrative.

We are seeking in some way to tell the stories of our lives with them. And the danger here is that we tend to also believe our own stories — ignoring that these images are highly selective and generally highly positive presentations of us. When was the last time you took a photo of yourself on the toilet? We make images of what makes sense of the world - but that means fitting our images into an already existing way of understanding. Sontag talks about this in her book On Photography when she quotes the Northern Irish at the start of the Troubles buying images of bombed bars and kids throwing stones or petrol bombs at armoured cars.

They did this to show their kids in the future images of a world that barely seemed real to them and they were certain would seem utterly unreal to their children and grandchildren.

I believe more young people die from suicide than from car accidents or drug overdoses today in our unwarlike societies. You know, where you point your camera determines in large measure what you will see and what you will remember. Truth is a kind of story we tell and our photographs help us construct and tell that story - but it is a story.

Like I said, I am going to have to read this book again — it contains a wealth of information in very few pages and all illustrated with pictures along the way. Hard not to like a book that comes with illustrations…

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Jae Emerling

Add to basket Add to wishlist Description Theory for Art History provides a concise and clear introduction to key contemporary theorists, including their lives, major works, and transformative ideas. Written to reveal the vital connections between art history, aesthetics, and contemporary philosophy, this expanded second edition presents new ways for rethinking the methodologies and theories of art and art history. The book comprises a complete revision of each theorist; updated and trustworthy bibliographies on each; an informative introduction about the reception of critical theory within art history; and a beautifully written, original essay on the state of art history and theory that serves as an afterword. From Marx to Deleuze, from Arendt to Ranciere, Theory for Art History is designed for use by undergraduate students in courses on the theory and methodology of art history, graduate students seeking an introduction to critical theory that will prepare them to engage the primary sources, and advanced scholars in art history and visual culture studies who are themselves interested in how these perspectives inflect art historical practice. Deal and Timothy K.

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Jae Emerling

Start your review of Photography: History and Theory Write a review Shelves: social-theory , photography , art I think this book is more a history of theory about photography, than a history of photography per se. Dont get me wrong it is no less valuable for that but you dont come away from this book knowing all that much about the dates and key moves in the development of photographic techniques in anything like a systematic way. Now, Im not sure I need a systematic knowledge of that history but it really is implied by the title. Where this book is particularly good is in giving a series of glosses on I think this book is more a history of theory about photography, than a history of photography per se. Where this book is particularly good is in giving a series of glosses on key texts from the history of the theory of photography.

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