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Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images 4th Edition
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A look at the subtitle to this book, "An Introduction to Understanding Images", might lead one to believe that it is about photographs and what makes them good or bad (or if there are such things as "good" and "bad" photographs). But instead it is about photographic criticism, primarily written. And even then it really doesn't tell you very much about how to write criticism yourself, or how to interpret what you read, or how to develop patterns of thought that would enable you to criticize in a useful fashion. Instead most of the book is concerned with the pigeon holes into which different kinds of photographic criticism can be put.
An unstated thesis of this book seems to be that the criticism of photographs is an art form itself. Certainly anyone who has read something like Walter Benjamin's "the Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" might agree. But if it is an art, then it has both form and content, and any book claiming to teach one about the art (I almost said craft) had better address those points. To know that there are theoretical schools like Postmodernism or Feminist Theory is useful to those trying to organize photographic criticism and may be helpful to the photographic critic who is trying to decide what his own approach is, but knowing that these schools exist does not help a critic as much as a knowledge of how to look at a picture and organize a written commentary.Read more ›
Despite its subtitle, which might lead you to believe it is about understanding pictures, the bulk of this book is directed at formal criticism of photographs. After an introductory chapter on the nature of criticism, Barrett suggests a process for criticizing photographs that includes description, interpretation and judgment. The author also suggests a classification scheme for photographs which he believes could be useful in forming judgments, although I found it no better then many other taxonomies and at times difficult to apply to many photographs. Throughout he mentions many schools of analysis, like formalism and feminism and shows how these schools might influence criticism. He then launches a foray into photographic critical theory which is concise but accurate and which deals with such questions as the truth and morality of photography. He finally talks about the act of writing criticism and also about critiquing photographs.
Barrett illustrates his points with many helpful examples of written criticism. Most of the examples deal with pictures of the modern or post-modern school, but the information is transferable to other kinds of photography. The book is illustrated with both color plates and black and white plates, although the black and white plates are spread throughout the book, which leads to a lot of page flipping. It would be nice if the next edition included a page number when these plates are referred to.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was looking for something to give me a feel for how the "academic community" teaches someone how to write effective criticism of photographs, and this book gave me that... Read morePublished 12 months ago by A Movie Lover
The description claimed that this book was in "very good" condition, but when I recieved it all of the pages were ruled, and the cover was bent in half. Read morePublished 24 months ago by lauren muhs
Criticizing is part of how I have learn as a photographer, to say my work is not right in someone eyes, is what has made me better as a photographer, I welcome criticism as a way... Read morePublished on February 4, 2014 by Beverly A Washington
I never got it. I bought it 2 months ago for school and never reveived it. I borrowed one at school and it was a great book.Published on December 19, 2013 by Chrissy Z
My teacher required this for my first photography class and it provided an intriguing view into the world of photography. Read morePublished on August 26, 2013 by howel123
This book is priceless whether you are a pro or amateur if you want to understand photography better and improve your style or even gain some new ideas.Published on August 9, 2013 by Michael Pollard
A must read for any photographer working in the arts. The book will give you the insights to see how and why someone is writing or talking about your work.Published on May 16, 2013 by Donald G. Stanton
It's a great source to understand the basis of criticisms in photography and still moving images, although it does talks about different ages of photography.Published on April 27, 2013 by Eduardo G