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Light Readings: A Photography Critic's Writings, 1968-1978 Paperback – September 1, 1998
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At the other end of the continuum is critical theory which is mainly concerned with the social and historical significance of photographs in general and usually is approached from one or more philosophical points of view, like semiotics, feminism or formalism. Critical theory for the most part seldom addresses photographic technique, and rarely, except by example, deals with the individual picture.
In between is what I call "public" photographic criticism which is usually written not from the point of view of the photographer but of the viewer. One might hope that such criticism, like the criticism of paintings or literature, would be aimed at helping other viewers to understand what a picture is about. (I suspect some people may already find me out on a limb by suggesting that a photograph is "about" anything.) Since technique often reveals what an image is about, or as literary critic Mark Shorer stated, "technique is discovery", I always hope that the public critic will explain the role of technique in the work of the photographer. Critics of painting will not only talk about the overall feeling of a painting and whether they cared for it or not, but also the way the light was used, and perhaps even the effect or use of brush strokes and other techniques.Read more ›
The essays include these titles: Paul Strand, Jerry Uelsmann, Roy DeCarava, Roger Minick, Photography and Conceptual Art, Diane Arbus, Minor White, New Japanese Photography, and others.
Regarding Paul Strand, A.D. Coleman writes, "There as been no change and little growth in Strand's image-making since the publication of The Mexican Portfolio in 1933, and his continued romanticization of the noble peasant seems increasingly mawkish and patronizing." (page 189).
Regarding Yousuf Karsh, "his much-vaunted style appears to be a trap from which he is incapable of escaping even momentarily." (page 213).
Regarding Lucas Samaras and Leslie Krims, "The subversion of expectations is central to all the contemporary arts, photography among them." (page 239).
Regarding Wright Morris, A.D. Coleman writes, "Coming to terms with one's past is hardly an original theme . . . all is vanished [in the locations photographed by Wright Morris] the people moved or dead . . . only the photographs endure to prove that any was more than a dream, thus they take on an awesome significance, like a handful of scattered potsherds at an archaelogical site." (page 245).Read more ›
--Taylor Holliday, The Wall Street Journal, December 4, 1998