Art Photography Now – Susan Bright

Thames & Hudson, London, 2011

General – great book, divided into 8 sections with examples in each

  1. Portrait
  2. Landscape
  3. Narrative
  4. Object
  5. Fashion
  6. Document
  7. City
  8. Transitions

These are the main quotes / learning points I took from the book.

Baudelaire ” we must see that photography is again confined to its real task, which consists in being the servant of science and art, but a very humble servant like typography and stenography, which have neither created nor improved literature.”

The impact of this digital technology has seen some theorists describe the current situation as being ‘post-photographic’. But instead of employing one single overarching term that can never adequately cover the breadth and depth of the medium, it is probably better to think of there being several photographies.


Peter Galassi (curator of photography, MOMA NYC) “…. Showing that what we see always depends in part on what we expect to see.” (talking about Warhol et al use of most banal photos.

The physical act of photographing something can in turn change it’s meaning.


Laden with ambiguity and uncertainty, the portrait is perhaps the most complex area of artistic practice. Used by contemporary artists to explore issues of identity – national, personal or sexual – the portrait has moved away from its commercial roots to become a powerful encounter or exchange between artist, sitter and spectator. Motivations and desires are never really clear and reactions to a portrait can vary enormously. To one it can be exploitative, engaging or ethically uncertain and to another tender, informed and noble. These tensions make portraiture one of the most compelling of artistic genres and also one of the most popular.

In many ways the very best portraits take on board the ambiguities and question what can’t really be articulated or identified of a person in terms of an image.


Talking of the landscapes of Adams, Weston, Stieglitz et al Graham Clarke describes “the play of light and pattern, of texture and contrast, expresses an almost physical presence”.

…… perhaps most fundamentally landscape photography offers the space to explore ever-present artistic and philosophical concerns about our place in the world.

Richard Misrach “In spite of recent trends towards fabricating photographic narratives, I find, more than ever, traditional photographic capture – the ‘discovery’ of found narratives – deeply compelling. It’s astonishing that I can still find, in the commonplace, images that speak so directly to broader themes of culture, literature and history.”


Sucking it’s references from many rich springs, photography is the magpie of all artistic mediums, cherry-picking styles and theories from the other arts and turning them into something resolutely its own. These rich pickings are nowhere more apparent than in ‘staged photography’. This term is the most commonly used for photography which relies on a narrative for its reading.


TheĀ  very act of photographing something makes it special and indeed it’s significance and our understanding of it can change dramatically once it is turned into a subject.

Wolfgang Tillmans “The true authenticity of photographs for me is that they usually manipulate and lie about what is in front of the camera but never lie about the intentions behind the camera.”

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