Identity and Place

Book Reviews


Train your gaze – Angier, R

This book is discusses the subject of portraits and pictures of people without descending into technical discussions on f Stops, lighting or posing a model. It is a book about learning how to see in a different way or at least learning to appreciate that there is a possibility of seeing in a different way. It attempts to bring understanding about the consequences of how we portray people in portraits.

This is not always a pretty book, many of the images are unpalatable to many a viewer, if your idea of beautiful pictures of people is born from glamour magazine or the latest issue of playboy then this book won’t meet your needs, there is however a Ninety-year-old woman’s vagina and lots of dead looking junkies and people living in squalor.

Not all of the images are grotesque however, there are some very thought-provoking images, that help to illustrate a different way of thinking.

The book sets a series of assignments at the end of each chapter which are deigned to make you think about the key points from the previous chapter, these are not to everyone’s taste but I think the reader may be surprised at the things they learn doing these exercises.

This is not an exhaustive treaty on taking perfect pictures of people, it is much deeper than that, it encourages to take a different view and tries to help us shake off our traditional views of what makes a great portrait.

Angier says, “The question of identity is central to the practice of portrait photography. Who am I looking at? Who is doing the looking?” (Angier, 2015)

Photography allows us to play around with questions of identity. The way we construct an image allows us to explain and define identities, but it also allows us to construct new ones. We can reconstruct the identity of the viewer by the way we position the viewer in the image, thus challenging their perception of what they see and of themselves.

“Train your Gaze” is about. Learning to see differently, learning to question, learning the rules of power and identity in looking and then breaking the rules. It’s not about learning butterfly lighting set-ups and the most flattering focal lengths for portraits; for that you need to look elsewhere.

CONTENTS

  1. Introduction
  2. About Looking
  3. Self-portrait/No Face
  4. People at the Margin: The Edge of the Frame
  5. Behavior in the Moment: Picturing Eventfulness
  6. You Spy: Voyeurism and Surveillance
  7. Portrait, Mirror, Masquerade
  8. Confrontation: Looking through the Bull’s Eye
  9. Out of Focus: The Disappearing Subject
  10. Flash!
  11. Figures in a Landscape: Tableaux
  12. Commentary: Digital Personae
  13. Appendices: Camera and Camera Controls
  14. Exposure and Metering
  15. Using Flash.
  16. Acknowledgements
  17. Critical Bibliography

 


Photography: The key Concepts

This is more of an academic study on photography and can be hard going due to its difficult writing style, however it addresses some really fundamental concepts and is worth the read. It is especially useful for those who want a grounding in contemporary and historical thinking before wading through some of the deeper and less penetrable essays on the subject.

This book looks across the history of photography questioning why, when and who at each point, referencing other authors so you can research further and expand your reading list, it delves into each genera of photography and even talks about the requirements needed to be successful.

 

 

 

CONTENTS

  1. History
  2. Photography Theory
  3. Documentary and Story-telling
  4. Looking at Portraits
  5. In the Landscape
  6. The Rhetoric of Still Life
  7. Art Photography
  8. Global Photography

 


Art photography now. Bright, S

“Photography helped shape art in the late 20th century. In the 21st, it has begun to dominate it.” This book is a survey of the work of eighty photographers Susan Bright considers to be the most important artist-photographers in the world today

In the introduction susan Bright lays out the historical relationship between art and photography going right back to the early 19th century and coming forward to the present, this is a revised addition and it is nice to see that she has brought it up to date by adding some newer, though no less talented names to the list.

The book is broken into seven sections, Portrait, Landscape, Narrative, Object, Fashion, Document and City, which explore the subjects, looks at the methods used by the leading practitioners. It explains what each genera is and considerers why photographers are driven to them. It also looks at how specific issues seem to be tied to certain approaches and how these relate to the genera.

For every photographer, she considers she has managed to get a commentary and quotations from each artist, which provides a unique insight into the meaning and making of their work

Among the artists covered by this book are, Andreas Gursky, Cindy Sherman, Sophie Calle, Nan Goldin and Martin Parr, Gregory Crewdson, Candida Höfer, Gabriel Orozco and Wolfgang Tillmans, Viviane Sassen, Latoya Ruby Frazier and Leigh Ledare.

CONTENTS LIST

  1. Introduction
  2. Portrait
  3. Landscape
  4. Narrative
  5. Object
  6. Fashion
  7. Document
  8. City
  9. Transitions
  10. Notes
  11. Further Reading

 


Art and photography

Art and Photography surveys, the presence of photography as a central theme in artistic practice. It spans a time period from 1960 onwards, and looks at the cameras rise from a purely mechanical process to taking its place as a form of art  It shows that not until the 1960’s did art museums start to exhibit and acquire photographic artworks

David Campany builds a comprehensive survey of photography and its place in the art and culture of the twentieth century

The book is divided thematically showing some nice colour plates with captions for every art work exploring the various aspects of photography. This book explores and demonstrates how photographers have pushed the boundaries of photography as an art form.

There are more than 190 examples depicting the most significant works of the artist, these include:

John Baldessari, Lewis Baltz, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Christian Boltanski, Chris Burden, Victor Burgin, Sophie Calle, Elinor Carucci, Chuck Close, James Coleman, John Coplans, Gregory Crewdson, Philip Lorca DiCorcia, William Eggleston, Joan Fontcuberta, Lee Friedlander, Nan Goldin, Andreas Gursky, John Hilliard, Candida Höfer, Roni Horn, Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine, Richard Long, Robert Mapplethorpe, Annette Messager, Joel Meyerowitz, Duane Michals, Boris Mikhailov, Richard Misrach, Gabriel Orozco, Giuseppe Penone, Richard Prince, Gerhard Richter, Martha Rosler, Georges Rousse, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha, Lucas Samaras, Andres Serrano, Cindy Sherman, Stephen Shore, Katharina Sieverding, Lorna Simpson, Thomas Struth, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Larry Sultan, Wolfgang Tillmans, Jeff Wall, Andy Warhol, Gillian Wearing, Boyd Webb, Carrie Mae Weems, William Wegman and Francesca Woodman.

CONTENTS LIST

  • Preface
  • Survey
  • Works
    • Memories and Archives
    • Objective Objects
    • Traces of Traces
    • The Urban and the Everyday
    • The Studio Image
    • The Arts of Reproduction
    • Just Looking
    • The Cultures of Nature
  • Appendices
    • Artists Biography
    • Bibliography

 


The portrait in photography

This book centers itself around the portrait and its ability to show us the character of the sitter, it investigates the aura of the portrait photograph and looks at it against the universality of modern day portraits and the reckless way we now take them. It looks at how the portrait may actually distort the individual.

There is a wide discussion of the photographic portrait ranging in subject from the simple family photo through the works of photographers such as Sander and Stieglitz. Clarke looks at the work of early pioneers such as Nadar and Cameron and moves through to some of the more famous modern photographers such as Winogrand.

Further Clarke looks at the relationship between the photographer and the sitter, the book also holds up a number of different critical approaches and dives into the works and theories of other writers such as Bathes, Sontag and Burgin

The book is divided into a series of essays by Roger Cardinal, Stephen Bann, Pam Roberts, Graham Clarke, Dawn Ades, Eric Hornberger, Mick Gidley, David Ellis, Alan Trachtenberg and Philip Stokes. It contains an introduction by Clarke and a series of ten essays.

CONTENTS

  • Introduction
  1. Nadar and the Photographic Portrait in Ninetieth Century France
    by Roger Cardinal
  2. Erased Physiognomy: Theodore Gericault, Paul Strand and Gerry Winogrand
    by Stephen Bann
  3. Julia Margaret Cameron: A Triumph over Criticism
    by Pam Roberts
  4. Public Faces, Private Lives: August Sander and the Social typology of the Portrait Photograph
    by Graham Clarke
  5. Duchamp’s Masquerades
    by Dawn Ades
  6. P. Morgan’s Nose: Photographer and Subject in American Portrait Photography
    by Eric Homberger
  7. Hoppe’s Impure Portraits: Contextualising the American Types
    Mick Gidley
  8. Images of D.H. Laurence: On the Use of Photographs in Biography
    By David Ellis
  9. Likeness as Identity: Reflections on the Daguerrean Mystique
    by Alan Trachtenberg
  10. The Family Photograph Album: So Great a Cloud of Witnesses
    by Philip Stokes
  • References
  • Select Bibliography

 


The photograph as contemporary art

This book is an introduction to contemporary art photography, it is divided into a series of genera and looks at the works of numerous artists within that genera. It is a great companion to any study of photography as it gives so very many jumping off points to go study other photographers. In this sense it acts like a catalogue of people to study, it does not give much detail on each photographer but rather wets the appetite for further study.

I can see why this book is always central to study at a degree level as it is almost a map of people to study, my main criticism is that she uses overly complex language making it quite hard to read, I have read this book three times as it has been a main book in all my level one studies and I am starting to like it more for what it is. When I was green and studying The Art of Photography, this book seemed impossible to read and I found myself reading large chunks and wondering what I had just read, now I find it a useful reference and a place to find artists that are doing work in the field I need to study. It is worth persevering with this book because it will become an essential reference and a map for the contemporary art photography world.

Based around the most important themes in photography the book studies nearly 250 photographers, giving examples from artists such as Isa Genzken, Jeff Wall, Sophie Calle, Thomas Demand, Nan Goldin, Sherrie Levine, Walead Beshty, Jason Evans, Lucas Blalock, Sara VanDerBeek and Viviane Sassen

CONTENTS

  • Introduction
  1. If This Is Art
  2. Once Upon a Time
  3. Deadpan
  4. Something and Nothing
  5. Intimate Life
  6. Moments in History
  7. Revived and Remade
  8. Physical and Material

 


Defining Identity through Folklore

An interesting Journal article that discusses the concept of identity and its relationship to folklore

 

 

 

 


Behind the Image – Research In Photography

AVA Academia’s Basics Creative Photography titles are designed to provide visual arts students with a theoretical and practical exploration of each of the fundamental topics within the discipline of creative photography.

Behind the Image looks at photographic research, developing a series of tools and a process to get you through the research process, it explains how reflection, evaluation and understanding will help you to produce a better body of work.

The premise is that “Informed research lies at the heart of engaging photography.” It attempts to engage with the reader and demonstrate that without an understanding of how to do research and why its valuable a photographer will not likely reach their whole potential.

 

Featured photographers/artists: Helen Sear; Steffi Klenz; Jeff Wall; Joachim Schmid; Stephen Bull; Grace Lau; Sally Verrall; Andrew Bruce; Jo Longhurst; Vivian Maier; Anthony Luvera; Melanie Manchot; John Davies; Dean Hollowood; Joy Gregory; Karen Knorr; Martha Rosler; Helen Goodin; Derek Ridgers; Wendy Pye; Clare Strand; Melanie Stidolph; Hashem el Madani; Harry Watts.

CONTENTS

  1. Planning
  2. Developing ideas through research
  3. Practice as research
  4. Compiling your research
  5. Research and practice
  6. The impact of research

 


Identity. The Review of Metaphysics

A useful Journal article that deals with Identity and memory, used this to provide an academic, reference to people holding memories about places that mean something to them, when tied to loss or special events.

 

 

 

 


Basic critical theory for photographers

This book is a well written explanation of a series of key papers written on critical theory, it covers all the key players and breaks them down into a primer that enables the reader to get a basic understanding of the theories.

Written by a teacher in order to help his students get to grips with some very complex texts this is an invaluable book that enables the less academic to get to grips with the ideas behind the papers before diving in and reading them. I found this invaluable as it enabled me to be in the right head space before trying to take on the more complex paper itself.

The book covers 13 authors and their works each chapter covering a new work:

 

CONTENTS

  1. John Berger – Ways of seeing
  2. John Szarkowski The Photographers Eye
  3. Stephen Shore -The Nature of Photographs
  4. Susan Sontag – On Photography
  5. Roland Barthes – Camera Lucida
  6. Marther Rosler – In Around and Afterthoughts
  7. Abigail Solomon-Godeau – Inside Out
  8. Clive Scott – The Spoken Image
  9. Andy Grundberg – The Crisis of the Real
  10. Raghubir Singh – River of Colour
  11. Bertrand Russell – Appearance and Reality
  12. Italo Calvino – The Adventures of a Photographer
  13. Poems by Felix Morisseau-Leroy and George Szirtes
  14. Robert Adams’, John Baldessari’s and Peter Godwin’s Analysis of Particular Photographs

 


Langford’s basic photography

This book is actually on its 10th edition though I have owned it for some time and my copy is the 8th edition, the new edition removes a lot of the analogue information which I actually found useful and enjoyable.

The book is the back to basics everything you need to know about photography, it covers all the basic and some of the less basic stuff delving into the technical aspects of photography like the science behind light and how lenses work. This book is rally everything you need to know and should have known that is not covered by your degree. It is the go to reference when your technical knowledge lets you down.

It has a companion book called Langford’s advanced photography, and I find the pair are perfect companions on my shelf, I judge how much better my technical skills are getting by the diminishing need to reference these two volumes, everyone should own both in my opinion, but keeping up with the new editions can be exhausting and very costly.

 


On photography

A critique of photography that poses some difficult and forceful questions about the moral and aesthetic issues surrounding photography as an art form.

“To photograph people,” Sontag said, “is to violate them…It turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.”(Sontag, 2008)

Photographs have become common place cameras are carried by almost everyone certainly in the western world, the advent of the selfie, the on the spot member of the public suddenly becoming the news photographer. These days even missiles have cameras that show us the last moments before the bang. Photography is instant now, Photographs have the power to shock, idealize or seduce, they create a sense of nostalgia and act as a memorial, and they can be used as evidence against us or to identify us

In her book Sontag creates six essays that look at how these images are used to create a sense of reality. This inferior version of reality is the basis of the book, in her six essays she looks at the philosophical question of how reality can be perceived, and reviews photography as a tool, as an industry, and how it “imposes a way of seeing” which can alter reality. Sontag also poses that photography has a habit of levelling everything to a beautiful level making even the worst topics aesthetically pleasing

The issue with this book is that Sontag speaks from a broad church about a wide range of subjects and expects the reader to be familiar with the topics she covers, which caused me to struggle when I first read this during TAOP, she also references a lot of individual photographers and even specific images, this requires an intimate knowledge of these people and their work, especially as none of the work is reproduced in the book for reference

I find this book a hard one to read, and to some extent I have an irrational dislike for the book, which is not really of its making but rather of mine.

 


Photography: A Critical Introduction

Written especially for students in further and higher education and for introductory college courses. It was the first introductory textbook examining critical theory in photography and placing them in social and political contexts.

The book includes 105 photographs and images, 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.

This book provides the student with an excellent starting point for researching the complex theories in photographic study, allowing them to make informed opinions of key photographic practices

 

CONTENTS

Introduction

  1. Thinking About Photography: Debates, Historically and Now
  2. Surveyors and Surveyed: Photography Out and About
  3. ‘Sweet it is to Scan…’: Personal Photographs and Popular Photography
  4. The Subject as Object: Photography and the Human Body
  5. Spectacles and Illusions: Photography and Commodity Culture
  6. On and Beyond the White Walls: Photography as Art

Glossary

Photography archives

Bibliography

Index

 


Photography: A Cultural History

This book plots a history of the photograph and it uses from the very first image through to current day. With a selection of over 600 images, Photography is examined through the lenses of art, science, social sciences, travel, war, fashion, the mass media, and individual practitioners.

This book is huge, it is so big its almost difficult to hold and read, packed with information all chronologically ordered to tell the story of photography, it is not an academic book like some of the others it is written in a plain English style that almost anyone could absorb.

The book plots a cultural history of photography that is truly global and is not limited to a single cultural viewpoint.

 

 

 

 


Bibliography

Angier, R. (2015). Train your gaze. 2nd ed. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

Bate, D. (2013). Photography. London [etc.]: Bloomsbury.

Bright, S. (2011). Art photography now. 2nd ed. London: Thames & Hudson.

Campany, D. (2012). Art and photography. 2nd ed. London: Phaidon.

Clarke, G. (1992). The portrait in photography. London: Reaktion Books.

Cotton, C. (2012). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.

Dundes, A. (1984). Defining Identity through Folklore (Abstract. Journal of Folklore Research, [online] 21(2/3), pp.149-152. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3814550 [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

Fox, A. and Caruana, N. (2012). Behind the Image – Research In Photography. 1st ed. Lausanne: AVA Academia.

Geach, P. (1967). Identity. The Review of Metaphysics, [online] 21(1), pp.3–12. Available at: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20124493 [Accessed 2 Aug. 2017].

La Grange, A. (2005). Basic critical theory for photographers. 1st ed. Oxford: Elsevier Focal Press.

Langford, M., Fox, A. and Smith, R. (2007). Langford’s basic photography. 8th ed. Amsterdam: Focal.

Sontag, S. (2008). On photography. London: Penguin Books.

Warner Marien, M. (2011). Photography. 3rd ed. London: Laurence King.

Wells, L. (2009). Photography. 4th ed. [S.l.]: Routledge.