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Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images [Paperback]

by Terry Barrett
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)


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Book Description

July 21, 2005 0072977434 978-0072977431 4
This brief text is designed to help both beginning and advanced students of photography better develop and articulate thoughtful criticism. Organized around the major activities of criticism (describing, interpreting, evaluating, and theorizing), Criticizing Photographs provides a clear framework and vocabulary for students' critical skill development. The fourth edition includes new black and white and color images, updated commentary, a completely revised chapter on theory that offers a broad discussion of digital images, and an expanded chapter eight on studio critiques and writing about photographs, plus examples of student writing and critique.


Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Terry Barrett is Professor of Art Education, with a joint appointment in the Department of Art, at The Ohio State University, where he is the recipient of a distinguished teaching award for courses in criticism and aesthetics within education. He has authored four books: Interpreting Art: Reflecting, Wondering and Responding; Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary (2nd ed.); Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images (4th ed.); and Talking about Student Art. He edited the anthology Lessons for Teaching Art Criticism, published articles in Aesthetic Education, Afterimage, Art Education, Exposure, Camera-Lucida, Dialogue, Cultural Research in Art Education, New Advocate, New Art Examiner, Studies in Art Education, Teaching Artist Journal, Theory into Practice, Visual Arts Research, and many chapters in edited books. He is an art critic in education for the Ohio Arts Council, consults museum education departments, juries exhibitions, and conducts workshops on studio critiques and writing.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages; 4 edition (July 21, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0072977434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0072977431
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,835 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Terry Barrett is on the faculty of Art Education and Art History, University of North Texas. He is also Professor Emeritus of Art Education, with a joint appointment in the Department of Art, at The Ohio State University, where he is the recipient of a distinguished teaching award for courses in criticism and aesthetics within education. He has authored five books: Making Art: Form & Meaning; Why Is That Art?; Criticizing Art (2nd ed.); Criticizing Photographs (4th ed.); and Talking about Student Art. He edited the anthology Lessons for Teaching Art Criticism, published articles in Aesthetic Education, Afterimage, Art Education, Exposure, Camera-Lucida, Dialogue, Cultural Research in Art Education, New Advocate, New Art Examiner, Studies in Art Education, Teaching Artist Journal, Theory into Practice, Visual Arts Research, and many chapters in edited books. He is an art critic in education, consults museum education departments, juries exhibitions, and conducts workshops on studio critiques and writing.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
133 of 150 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Criticisng Criticism June 11, 2002
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
NOTE: This is a review of the third edition of this book, which Amazon is also posting under the fourth edition, which is a substantially better book. For people interested in the fourth edition, please read my review which appears under the title of "Getting Better."

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.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
A diversity of critical voices and photographic approaches is explored, giving the reader access to a rich world of creative thoughtŠBarrett defines criticism as "informed discourse about art to increase understanding and appreciation of art." He organizes his treatment of the four major activities of criticism‹describing, interpreting, evaluation, and theorizing‹which in turn address four basic questions: What is here? What is it about? How good is it? Is it art? ŠThe book provides in two short appendixes, practical advice on writing about photographs and on conducting casual and directed discussion of photographsŠ Monterey Peninsula College, Anne Canright
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Getting Better April 29, 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I reviewed the third edition of this book several years ago, I didn't rate it highly, but I thought that perhaps the fourth edition might be a better book, and it is.

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.
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34 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book August 23, 2005
Format:Paperback
Criticizing Photographs remains one of the most important books in the field, and Barrett has updated the text with new photos to discuss. His new editions include worthy changes and are not ploys to sell new copies. I have used his books for years in an advanced photography college class.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction. October 14, 2004
Format:Paperback
Having never taken a course in art appreciation, I found this book to be an excellent introduction to interpreting photographic images. The comment above about this book serving as a framework is a good one. Essentially any photograph will fall into one of the categories, giving the viewer a frame of reference within which to interpret and appreciate the meaning of the work. It forces you to slow down and think about each photograph you encounter, ultimately enriching the viewing experience. I highly recommend it for photography aficionados and photographers alike.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Took forever to arrive, beat up
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 more
Published 2 months ago by lauren muhs
5.0 out of 5 stars This is how one can learn
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 more
Published 2 months ago by Beverly A Washington
1.0 out of 5 stars Never got it
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 4 months ago by Christine Zuke
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting.
My teacher required this for my first photography class and it provided an intriguing view into the world of photography. Read more
Published 8 months ago by howel123
5.0 out of 5 stars Photographers take note!
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 8 months ago by Michael Pollard
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight
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 11 months ago by Donald G. Stanton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great photo critizism book
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 12 months ago by Eduardo G
3.0 out of 5 stars standard textbook style
Hum drum, textbook style writing. Just one of the lamer photography classes, I guess it also has to come with a lame book.
Published 15 months ago by Dani
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific
I'd like to point out this review is about the 4th edition and also that I live in the UK hence the reference to Amazon UK where I posted my original review. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Clara
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
This item came just in time before Christmas! And the customer service was excellent! I would highly recommend this company to other people!
Published on February 10, 2012 by Anna Yi
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