Sunday, 14 November 2010

Book Review: Photography – A Critical Introduction: Liz Wells

After my experience reading Charlotte Cotton’s ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’ I decided it was time to go back to basics  as I know essentially nothing about art criticism.
The Liz Wells book is on the set book list and seemed like a good place to start. It’s quite a densely printed book, with far fewer photographs than I expected, but is quite well written even if it does have a tendency to technical language which takes a bit of getting used to
I tried to read it at a single sitting, but didn’t finish it – information overload – but it is obviously a book that I shall be coming back to on more than one occasion.
The first chapter – Thinking about photography – certainly got me doing that in a way I’d not considered before as it examined the different possible readings of ‘Migrant Mother’ However, I do think the language sometimes obscured the meaning – which rather defeats the object of a text book.
The second chapter was a useful introduction to photojournalism/documentary, its uses and some of the associated ethical issues ahead of the 4th module of this course. I was particularly interested in the historic examples of duplicity in photography and the ongoing difficulty in defining exactly what constitutes an objective photograph.
The third chapter looks at the history, value and uses of personal and popular photography. I was particularly struck by an 1893 quote on page 136 about vigilantes thrashing ‘cads’ who took pictures of ladies emerging from the water at the seaside – which seems to have echoes in the current suspicion of anyone using a ‘professional’ camera in public places.
By this stage – after 150 pages of new concepts and ideas I was flagging, so I have left the later chapters for a later date. There’s enough material in this book to keep me going for while yet.

1 comment:

  1. I like the Liz Wells book too. I'm very impressed that you read 150 pages at one go!