'Jae Emerling has done the near impossible: he has written an introduction to the history and theory of photography that also adds significantly to the ways in which we come to see, know, and understand the world. Here, by focusing on the 'and' between history and theory, photography itself becomes ingeniously a form of thinking. Photography is history, is theory, is technology, is archive, is document, is truth, is time, is knowledge, is a way to generate new worlds politically and aesthetically. Emerling writes that 'to study the history and theory of photography is to write and create alongside—and in the middle of—images.' He couldn't be more right.' – Marquard Smith, Director, Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture, University of Westminster, UK
'Jae Emerling has produced a timely and thoroughly useful book that shows how the history of photography and the theories encouraged by that history have shaped our experience of the photographic work of art. His writing eloquently and accessibly considers those debates that have lead to the concepts through which contemporary practitioners and viewers alike now confront the ‘impossible object’ of an art photograph. This book is a must for anyone serious about the production, appreciation, or use of photographic images in the 21st century. Emerling’s work beautifully defines artistic practice and theory as complementary but not identical, and points out that images are always already ensembles of history and ideas. For as he so succinctly states in his introduction, ‘The footprint of a bird is not a bird’.' – William Wylie, Professor of Art, University of Virginia, USA
'Photography offers the most complex limit case for understanding representation in our time. What Emerling has done in situating the discourse of art photography on the dual thresholds of aesthetics/ethics and theory/history, is to open up the field to the ontological complexity of its subject domain. This book is an astonishing performance, a nuanced and lucid argument addressed to all those interested in why photography matters today.' – Claire Farago, Professor of Art History, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA
'In exploring photography's inexorable relationship to theory Emerling has produced an elegant and rigorous analysis of key theoretical junctures within the history of this crucial medium of visual culture... [T]his excellent study is likely to become an indispensible volume for graduate students and scholars of photography and those interested in theories of visual culture. Highly recommended.' – M.R. Freeman, CHOICE magazine
‘…we are now witnessing the publication of more single-voiced books [that] succeed in adding new perspectives and insights on photography, as Photography: History and Theory convincingly does’ – Helen Westgeest, CAA reviews
About the Author
Jae Emerling is assistant professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of Theory for Art History (Routledge).