Art and Photography

Phaidon, 2003

About the book

Art and Photography surveys the major presence of photography at the centre of artistic practice from the 1960s onwards. On its invention, the photograph was considered a purely mechanical, an artless object that could not be included in the fine arts. Despite its increasing use by the twentieth century’s most significant artists, only since the late 1960s have art museums gradually begun to exhibit and acquire photography as  artworks in a wide range of forms and practices.

Survey David Campany provides a comprehensive historical overview of photography’s place in twentieth-century art history.

Works provides an extensive colour plate and duotone image section with extended captions for every artwork. Divided thematically, each chapter explores a different aspect of photography in twentieth-century culture, examining the diverse ways in which artists have explored and pushed boundaries.

Among more than 190 examples of the most significant photographic projects by artists are works by 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.

Documents contextualises the Works with original artists’ statements and interviews, often reproduced in book form for the first time, plus writings on art and photography by leading critics, writers and theorists of the late twentieth century.

Early editions (blue Thomas Struth hardcover and softcover) include an extensive ‘Documents’ section, cut from the later editions (Luigi Ghirri cover).

Several reprints. Available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.

 From the book:


Photography is embedded in almost every aspect of our visual culture. If one were to gather together at random a dozen photographers they may not have much in common. Little appears to unite the photographic imagery of journalism, fashion, the police, architecture, portrait studios, medicine, geography, anthropology, the film industry, community projects, advertising, amateurism and the rest.

Photography in art is equally diverse. It is made by many practitioners with a range of artistic identities: ‘art photographers’, ‘artists’, ‘photographic artists’, ‘artist using photography’ and ‘photographers’. This book is not concerned with pedantic categories but it does take this lack of consensus as a way to look at the multiple sensibilities of photography in art.

In the mid 1960s many artists were looking to expand their horizons to engage with the rapidly changing world and its representations. It was in the photographic that it glimpsed the means to do it. Every significant moment in art since the 1960s has asked, implicitly or explicitly, “What is the relation of art to everyday life?” And so often that question has taken photographic form. Why? Because it is an everyday medium. The photographic has achieved its greatest significance for art in its adaptability.  This has been the source of its radical potential, of its fascination for artists and its extraordinary capacity for renewal.

            The aim here is to look at the variety of places photography has occupied in art since the mid 1960s. The recent past is the most difficult of things to grasp, and there is always the possibility that an overview will hastily define works and artists just as they are trying to open up new questions. With this in mind the structure of the book makes use of themes that depart from but complement those familiar from recent art history such as ‘conceptual art’, ‘postmodernism’, ‘the body’, as well as those from recent histories of photographic art  – ‘image / text’, ‘the constructed image’, ‘identity’ and the ‘political image’. Certainly all these have their place here but the aim here is to cut across them to arrive at other themes that can be seen to have been constant but variable over the last few decades.

            Section One, ‘Memories and Archives’ looks at work that has explored the photograph’s role in the formation of public and private histories. Section Two, ‘Objective Objects’ looks at the photograph’s apparently direct relation to the world. Section Three, ‘Traces of Traces’ examines photography as a record of the real and its effects. Section Four, ‘Urban Stages and the Everyday’ looks at the supplanting of classical ‘street photography’ with a breadth of attempts to register the social and economic complexities of contemporary city life. Section Five, ‘The Artist’s Studio’, charts the intersection of the photographic studio and fine art’s traditional space of making. Section Six, ‘The Arts of Reproduction’, brings together photography that rethinks art’s past with works that reflect upon the way mass culture is experienced as fragments. Section Seven, ‘Just Looking’, addresses the ways photography has been used to question the social structures of vision and the place of the gaze in the formation of our identity. And Section Eight, ‘The Cultures of Nature’, looks beyond ‘landscape photography’ to bring together works that examine how the current understandings of the natural are formed and reflected through contemporary representation. The themes used here are not a rigid classification but a suggestion, a way to bring works into dialogue with each other.


            Over the last three decades or so art has become increasingly photographic. Why do I phrase it this way around? Why not ‘photography has become art’? Because that would suggest a kind of unity in the medium when in fact photography has ended up in art in diverse ways, for diverse reasons. It wasn’t the result of a recognition of a singular medium with singular credentials. Certainly photography has always had its champions who have spoken on its behalf, made attempts to give it an identity and tried to fashion it into something artistically unique, although they have rarely agreed on what it should be. In 1989 our most grand cultural institutions put on large historical survey shows. They were pitched as a mix of 150th birthday and welcome present.[1]  Photography was celebrated as some now fully accepted individual as if it had been struggling for recognition. It is a personification with a long history. We might recall a famous little illustration by the photographer Nadar from 1859 depicting Painting taking Photography by the hand and offering it a place in the fine arts.  

            Despite the big declarations and official bestowal the great ceremonial embrace of a thing called Photography was misleading. By 1989 the photographic had been seeping its way into much of the most significant art practice for over twenty years, largely unannounced and rarely in the name of Photography. It had appealed to artists precisely because it didn’t seem to have an intrinsic character, no clearly definable identity. It didn’t belong to art: it belonged to everyone and no one, and what little baggage it had picked up in the hope of becoming a distinctive medium was intriguing but easy to ignore. It was photography’s lack of specialism that made it so special. And it still does. In recent art no other medium has been taken up in such a variety of ways. In what might now have become a post-medium condition for art, photography is so often the medium of choice.

             This book shares its title, Art and Photography, with an earlier study by Aaron Scharf published in 1968.[2] Scharf looked at relations between photography and painting.  For one hundred and thirty years discussion of photography in art had revolved around painting, around the degree to which artistic photography might be an imitation, rejection or extension of it. The debates about art and photography were really about painting and photography. Give or a take a year, 1968 is the starting point here. By the late 1960s it was becoming clear that the photographic was taking up unexpected dialogues with many more of the arts than painting, such as cinema, theatre, performance, literature and sculpture. Much more radical however was that artists were beginning to reflect on the everyday photography outside of art and on representation in general.[3]  Sometimes playful, sometimes serious (and often both) it is this reflection that unites the important uses of photography in the art of the last few decades. Later on I will discuss some of its different aspects in parallel with the Works sections. First of all we need to look closely at the moment at which it first became necessary and possible.

 Photographies and Modernisms

            The self-conscious art photography of the 1940s and 1950s had subjected the mechanism of the camera to a subjective ‘poetics of seeing.  At its best this gave rise to a type of critical and political independence.  For example Robert Frank’s acerbic book The Americans (1958/9) was an acerbic critique of the growing social alienation of North America. His photojournalism of a postwar country uneasy with itself became very influential. This was partly because of its subject matter, and partly because Frank’s apparently lone voice flattered the seductive idea of the outsider photographer at odds with the world. Less politicised but equally attractive was the embattled pursuit of an independent art of pure photography. Aperture magazine, founded in 1952 and edited for twenty years by the mystic guru Minor White, was North America’s bastion of a fiercely romantic, personalised photography.  In Europe a parallel Subjective Photography movement was led by Otto Steinert, who championed the cause in three group exhibitions (1951, 1954 and 1958). [4] It made beautiful photographs but was often very trenchant and defensive about its aims, so much so that it grew insular and quite conservative. The images were striving for free and individual expression but turned out to be generically similar in their rich tonal values, dark tones and moody atmospheres, suggesting a reflex retreat into the opposite of the cheap colour images of post-war mass culture. Art photography had always been wary of the popular character of the medium. Its aesthetic aspirations could be so easily thwarted by the colossal weight of its popular cultural ‘other’ with its base indistinctness, simplicity, blank objectivity, industrial standards, entertainment value and disposability. These are things from which any art traditionally defined might wish to recoil. Yet these were also the very qualities that began to strike artists, with no vested interest in defending photography, as being significant and interesting.

            Pop Art of the 1960s is perhaps the moment that looms largest when we think of art embracing a mass medium. Andy Warhol and his assistants made canvases that reproduced photographs from celebrity portraits, magazines and the like. He mixed the tradition and materials of painting with an artisanal mimicry of mechanical techniques. Silkscreens could be made in number, in a process somewhere between a cottage industry (although Warhol called it a Factory) and mass production.  For himself, he inverted the idea of the lone self- expressive artist into a mesmerisingly blank mirror of consumer culture.

            Outside of Pop there was a growing interest in the evidential power that photography had accrued over the previous century. It had been placed in the service of science, the law, news and other institutions as proof.  Photographs were given an enormous amount of authority in daily life, supposedly telling us how the world is and what is important in it. Artists took the opportunity to tackle those uses head on, to take them as their subject matter. This was a part of the general attempt to make a more direct connection between art and everyday life. At a time of great social change in Europe and North America artists wanted to be relevant and play their part as well as being questioning and critical. There were forces internal to art as well. Many felt the need to transcend the often stifling limitations of abstraction which had dominated art for some time. Pop was one solution but by the late 1960s its ironies seemed insufficiently critical, tending to close down artistic possibility rather than open it up. Much less flashy than Pop but perhaps more significant for the future development of photography in art was Conceptualism. A largely retrospective term, it is applied to an art that wanted to put ideas, investigations and definitions first. It was a cerebral, theoretical and political practice that opened up an examination of the nature of communication, and the nature of art and artists. It wanted to see if an art was possible that did away with the mark of the hand, with the excesses of artistic selfhood to deal with how meaning is made, both in the world and in art. This was radically new and not new. Its historical precursor is the art of Marcel Duchamp from the 1910s and 20s. His work began to exert its delayed influence on art in the late 1950s and has been growing ever since. Duchamp had been interested in shifting art from questions of morphology to questions of its function, from “What is beautiful?” to “What is art?” The now famous readymades such as Fountain (1917)  introduced everyday objects into the space of art, turning the artwork into a matter of nomination, of calling it art.[5] Other of his works used anonymous industrial processes and materials, while the photographs of his masquerades as a female alter ego, Rrose Sélavy, seemed to challenge ideas of the unique artistic self. 

Language was Conceptualism’s ideal medium.[6]  It could perhaps get rid of objects, put ideas centre stage. When it had recourse to images it used photography in a perfunctory, matter of fact way, but questioned those facts at the same time. It was an art that didn’t need to be about technical skill or beauty traditionally defined. It didn’t need to have the ‘look’ of art. Like a well-formed thought, its beauty could emerge in the clarity of its ideas. This is what unites works as diverse as Ed Ruscha’s brazenly amateurish photo books (1963-71), Joseph Kosuth’s “proto-investigations” such as One and Three Chairs (1965-67), Dan Graham’s pieces magazines such as Homes for America (1966) Bruce Nauman’s improvised works made in his studio and documented for camera (1965-70), Douglas Huebler’s self-assignments called the Duration, Location and Variable Pieces of the late 1960s and 1970s, Victor Burgin’s illusion/anti-illusion Photopath (1967-69) and Keith Arnatt’s Trouser-Word Piece (1970) . Such art accepted photography as an anonymous condition of everyday life, but probed and subverted it at the same time. In some cases it was a direct critique of the authority of the photograph, in others it was indirect: simply using such obviously inartistic photography could force a different relation to the visual, and a different understanding of the role of the artist.  Photography was essential to Conceptualism but it approached it as a non-medium. There was no scramble to define its essence and no programme about what it should be. Some of the most significant art of the late 1960s and 1970s was being made in a medium about which the artists didn’t really care too much, certainly not as guardians or spokespeople. And it could only have been made with that non-attitude.       

            In the late 1990s there was a great deal of interest in these kinds of practices, with several survey shows and critical re-evaluations. Once photography had become available to artists, the speed at which ideas could evolve and work could be made was often exhilarating.  Moreover, not being beholden to the often conservative pace of an art market or to the demands of a photographic history meant that the vast intellectual and artistic ground that was covered between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s is still a great source of inspiration for contemporary art.[7] 

            At twenty years remove the photographic artist Jeff Wall looked back and suggested that hidden within Conceptual Art was photography’s moment of modernist “auto-critique”, when it examined its own condition.[8]  Photography for the first time was forced to ruminate on its primary social functions as journalism and bureaucratic evidence. In postwar art Modernism is closely associated with medium specificity – the focus on those characteristics thought to be unique to a medium. This in turn is associated with purity, a purging of all those things extraneous to the essence.  For painting this meant an attention to the flatness of the canvas, the materiality of paint, the mark of the hand and a rejection of figurative representation. Abstract Expressionism (typified by Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman) was perhaps the best attempt at a pure Modernist painting. One version of photographic modernism involves something similar, that is to say a looking for the internal properties that might make photography unique – such as focus, detail, framing, perspective, shutter speeds or tonality. However, photography is inherently representational, inherently descriptive. It is thrown into the world (or the world is thrown into it) and is thus not at all pure or autonomous. Within Conceptualism photography reflected on itself not by looking inwards to define a special or essential character but by looking outward to reflect on how mass culture understood photography, how it put its descriptive character to use in everyday life. This version of photographic modernism was the absolute opposite of Abstract Expressionism. It was “representational non-expressionism”, a rejection of the self-consciously arty photograph in favour of the artless, dumb and plainly descriptive image. Within Conceptualism photography restaged and estranged its social character. This idea is important in the sense that Modernist art is usually thought to be all about the turning away from figurative representation.[9]  Photography’s modernism is a turning on representation. An impure reflection on its own impurity.[10] But it took a while to realise that that is what it was. If Conceptualism was the moment of photography’s modernism it wasn’t a modernism of the manifesto, of the declared intention for the medium. It was largely accidental and ignoble. It happened by default.[11] 

            Artists continued to take up the photographic in this way throughout the 1970s. They put it to use at the service of performance  (Chris Burden, Carolee Schneeman, Bruce Nauman), investigations of the document (Susan Hiller, John Hilliard, Lewis Baltz, Larry Sultan & Mike Mandel, Thomas Barrow) investigations of the self and the social body (Ana Mendieta, Hannah Wilke, Eleanor Antin, Urs Luthi, Bas Jan Ader, Francesca Woodman), and in sculptural activity in which the camera extended the idea of the object into performance (Richard Long, Giuseppe Penone, Gordon Matta Clark, Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Boyd Webb, David Haxton).

            This ongoing splicing of photography into art practice took place in the shadow of a massive but quite separate popular boom in interest in specialist art photography. A market was being developed for fine art prints of the past and their imitations. This was accompanied by an unlimbering for the public of criteria for the aesthetic judgment of photographs – letting them know which were art and which were not.[12]  Big museums began to put on occasional shows of art photography, and a few dedicated galleries began to open.[13]  There was a proliferation of books on the great ‘masters’ (Henri Cartier-Bresson, Edward Weston, Andre Kertesz and others). The leading art magazines responded to the boom by devoting whole issues to photography and these too reflected the gap between specialist art photography and the more critical reflection on the medium by artists. In 1975 the Italian Flash Art International had a ‘Special on Photoworks’. The English Studio International and the American Artforum soon followed.[14]  The latter two in particular are revealing snapshots of the time.  There were essays from a range of perspectives: nineteenth century portraiture, modernist painting borrowing from photography, recent photography books by photojournalists, the split between art photography and artists using photography, staged images of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, photography in Conceptualism, and an introduction of semiotics and rhetoric to a theory of photography. On the commercial pages there were advertisements for small presses selling cheap artists’ books, fine print sales galleries, museum shows, educational packs, specialist bookshops, contemporary group shows in alternative spaces and retrospectives of figures from the past.[15] In some senses that wide gap between art photography and artists using photography can be read as an ideological one: aesthetic conservatism versus radical vanguardism; or formalism versus post-formalism; or a defence of the ‘soul’ of photography against the claim that it doesn’t have one; introversion versus social engagement. The gap was real in the sense that the audiences were quite split and the networks of exhibition were fairly distinct.[16]  To a large degree specialist art photography was bound up with an idea of both artist and medium possessed of a coherent and given core, conventionally defined. Vanguard art was destabilising that artistic identity and this was intimately linked to its ad hoc and indirect destabilising of photography as a distinct medium. [17]

            This was most clear in the uses made of photography by feminist art and the revolutionary impact it has had on thinking through what is at stake in the visual.  Feminism brought a demand that art address the historically and culturally specific functions of images.  There is a politics of all representation that needs to be addressed in order to see the way in which, in art and out, they are always expressions of social values, of ideologies, of power. It is feminism that most emphatically prompted a widening out of the theories of art and photography to a theory of representation in general. And since photography was a medium ‘in general’ serious questions needed to be asked about what a theory of photography was and whether it was possible or useful to have one.           

            Once it was grasped as a thoroughly social sign the study of photography began to be informed by a wealth of theoretical perspectives.  This began to happen towards the end of the 1970s. Two key books of the period were Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida (1980) and Susan Sontag’s On Photography.[18] Barthes’ photographic writings stretched back to the 1950s and combined with his other writings on literature and mass culture they have informed nearly all the subsequent theoretical approaches to the medium. Semiotics, feminism, psychoanalysis, philosophy, phenomenology, cinema studies, literary theory, institutional analysis as well as advanced art theory all brought important and stimulating insights to the thinking and making of photography.[19]  Many writers and critics have contributed to the now advanced understanding of photography in art including Rosalind Krauss, Craig Owens, Douglas Crimp, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Griselda Pollock, and Régis Durand. Still more writers are also artists, many of whom emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s (Victor Burgin, Martha Rosler, Barbara Kruger, Yve Lomax, Allan Sekula, Mary Kelly and Jeff Wall). This has helped broach the often artificial division between practice and theory, breaking with the still popular idea of the artist as someone who works in a realm ‘beyond language’.  Out of this grew what was called ‘Postmodern’ art, a key moment in the alignment of art and theory. Again this addressed the social roles of representation (and in that sense it continued the social modernism begun by Conceptual Art). But those roles had changed. With a shift in economic structure Western industrial countries found themselves with an image world dominated by television, consumerism and entertainment. It wasn’t imagery purporting to be visual fact that had so informed Conceptualism.[20] This was a new, accelerated environment of distractive fantasy and permanent instability. Rather than mimicking the cheapness of the lumpen descriptive image, postmodern artists took to a critical dissimulation of its excesses and of the apparent disconnection of the image from the real. (I shall discuss this in detail later.)

            The economic boom that had produced this cultural situation also produced a buoyant art market that could sustain this new postmodern work. The market has since ebbed and flowed but a long-term consequence has been that art institutions now have a much less erratic interest in photography. A firmer base has allowed artists who use photography to develop long careers. Signature style, still very much demanded by buyers and curators, is present but it is an effect of sustained concerns, approaches and subject matter. [21] Against the background of photography’s sometimes overwhelming possibilities, artists have tended to pursue particular lines of enquiry over longer periods. Many now evolve their practice incrementally and diligently. This is what has characterised the work of the last decade or so.[22] However there is a second sense in which recent work has become slower. Popular image culture has accelerated and become largely electronic. As a result photography is now grasped as a medium characterised by slowness. Where once it might have been the pinnacle of cultural speed, it now seems a more deeply contemplative medium, detached even while it describes. This has left it with the chance to reflect at a much greater distance and with less anxiety than before. Its audiences are beginning to approach it in that way too. These are the conditions under which the differences between specialist art photography and artists using photography have begun to dissolve.

[1] Typical of these surveys was The Art of Photography 1839-1989 shown at London’s Royal Academy of Arts (which saw itself as “throwing open open its doors to photography”), in North America at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Australian National Gallery, Canberra. cf. Mike Weaver (ed) The Art of Photography 1839-1989 Yale University Press, New Haven and London 1989; and Photography Until Now  at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. cf. John Szarkowski Photography Until Now Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1989. For a critique of the latter show see Abigail Solomon-Godeau ‘Mandarin Modernism; Photography Until Now’ Art in America 78:12  (December 1990) 140-149, 183.

[2] Aaron Scharf Art and Photography, Penguin, London 1968

[3] The “job of the artist which no one else does is to dismantle existing communication codes and to recombine some of their elements into structures which can be used to generate new pictures of the world.” Victor Burgin, Work and Commentary New Latimer Dimensions Ltd 1973, unpag.

[4] cf. Otto Steinert, Museum Folkwang, Essen 1981.

[5] Thierry De Duve et al,  Pictorial Nominalism : On Marcel Duchamp’s Passage from Painting to the Readymade Theory and History of Literature Series, Vol 51) University of Minnesota Press  April 1991

[6] cf. Peter Osborne, Conceptual Art (2002) 26-34

[7] Recent survey exhibitions and books on Conceptual Art include L’art Conceptual,une Perspective, ARC, Paris 1989; Goldstein  and Rorimer (eds) Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965 – 1975, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles / MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1996; John Roberts (ed) The Impossible Document: Photography and Conceptual Art in Britain, 1966-1976 Camerawork, London,1997; Chemical Traces: Photography and Conceptual Art, 1968-1998 Ferens Art Gallery, Kingston upon Hull,1998; Newman and Bird (eds) Rewriting Conceptual Art (1999); Alexander Alberro and Blake Stimson (eds) Conceptual Art: a critical anthology MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1999; Live In Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75, Whitechapel Art Gallery London, 2000.

[8] cf. Jeff Wall ‘’Marks of Indifference”: aspects of Photography in, or as, Conceptual Art’   Goldstein  and Rorimer (eds) Reconsidering the Object of Art: 1965–1975, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles / MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1996 246-267. Reprinted in part in Janus (ed) Veronica’s Revenge: Contemporary Perspectives on Photography (1998) 73-100

[9] cf. Clement Greenberg ‘Modernist Painting’  (1960) in The Collected Essays and Criticism, Volume 4: modernism with a Vengeance, 1957-1969, edited by John O’Brian, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1992 85-89. Greenberg’s modernism was not inherently anti-representational. He recognised the intrinsically descriptive character of photography cf. ‘The Camera’s Glass Eye; Review of an Exhibition of Edward Weston’ (1946), Reprinted in the Documents section.

[10] This impurity is also the reason why photography couldn’t in the end be contained by that part of Conceptualism that aimed at a pure reflection on the conditions of art as art.

[11] The artist John Hilliard discusses how Jeff Wall’s argument is only possible with hindsight in an interview with John Roberts in Roberts (ed) The Impossible Document: Photography and Conceptual Art in Britain 1966-1976, Camerawork, London 1997 105-126. Reprinted in John Hilliard Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca 1994  79-94

[12] In 1974 the American Artforum magazine published one of its most influential and critical articles on photography.  ‘On the Invention of Photographic Meaning’ by the artist/writer Allan Sekula was a lucid critique of the clubbish connoisseurship that was threatening to overwhelm all thinking about the social role of photography. cf. Allan Sekula  ‘On the Invention of Photographic Meaning’ Artforum vol. XII no. 5, 1975. Reprinted in Burgin (ed) Thinking Photography Macmillan, London 1982 84-109.

[13] For example in London The Photographer’s Gallery opened in 1971 while the collectively run Half Moon Gallery in London’s east end was set up in January 1972, adding darkroom facilities and café in 1975. The following year set up Camerawork magazine (later the name of the whole enterprise).

For an outline of the north American situation see Lewis Baltz’ excellent overview ‘American Photography in the 1970s’ in Turner (ed) American Images: Photography 1945-1980 (1985) 157-164.

[14]  Flash Art International 52-53 (February-March 1975); Studio International July/August 1975); Artforum 15:1 September (1976)

[15] Even within its more progressive tendencies there were divergent approaches. In 1979 London’s Hayward Gallery presented Three Perspectives on Photography, giving viewers separate sections: Photographic Truth, Metaphor and Individual Expression; Feminism and Photography; and A Socialist Perspective on Photographic Practice. cf. Three Perspectives on Photography, Arts Council of Great Britain, London 1979.

[16] An interesting path through all this can be gleaned from the reviews of exhibitions in North America throughout the period by critic the A.D. Coleman cf. A.D Coleman Light Readings: a photography critic’s writings, 1968-1978 Oxford University Press, New York 1979

[17] For a engaging discussion of this see Geoffrey Batchen’s opening and closing chapters of Burning With Desire: The Conception of Photography  MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1997

[18] Susan Sontag On Photography Allen Lane, London 1978 (first published as a series of essays in the New York Review of Books) 

[19] The 1970s also saw the beginning of the interest in Walter Benjamin’s writing on art and culture from the 1920s and 30s, particularly his essay ‘The work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.’(1936)

[20] This is the point at which colour imagery began to dominate photography in art. Colour was all but absent from art until the late 1970s. Besides commercial and technical barriers black and white was generally preferred by critical art of the 1970s for its anti-illusionism and cheapness, while art photographers were always anxious about the vulgarity of colour.  A key exception was the New Colour photography that emerged in North America, which often took American vulgarity as its subject matter. cf. Sally Eauclaire The New Color Photography (1981)

[21] A fourth term here might be “presentation format”.

[22] The group exhibition Another Objectivity (1989) was an important announcement of a break with the postmodern art of the previous decade. It brought together artists who had been working with ‘straight’ socially descriptive photography for some time with younger photographers sharing their approach. It included Bernd & Hiller Becher, Hannah Collins, Jeff Wall, Thomas Struth, John Coplans, Craigie Horsfield and Suzanne Lafont. cf. Chevrier, and Lingwood (eds) Un’altra obiettivita / Another objectivity Idea Books, Milano 1989




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