Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 3 images
Sell yours for a Gift Card
We'll buy it for $2.00
Learn More
Trade in now
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon

Photography Theory (The Art Seminar) Paperback – December 15, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0415977838 ISBN-10: 0415977835 Edition: New Ed
Buy used
Buy new
Used & new from other sellers Delivery options vary per offer
59 used & new from $15.18
Rent from Amazon Price New from Used from
"Please retry"
Paperback, December 15, 2006
"Please retry"
$28.94 $15.18

Hero Quick Promo
Save up to 90% on Textbooks
Rent textbooks, buy textbooks, or get up to 80% back when you sell us your books. Shop Now
$34.25 FREE Shipping on orders over $35. Only 6 left in stock (more on the way). Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

Photography Theory (The Art Seminar) + Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography + On Photography
Price for all three: $58.25

Buy the selected items together

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

James Elkins is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the Art Institute of Chicago, and Head of History of Art at the University College Cork, Ireland. He is author of Pictures and Tears, How to Use Your Eyes, and What Painting Is, and, most recently, The Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art and Master Narratives and Their Discontents, all published by Routledge.

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Series: The Art Seminar
  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; New Ed edition (December 15, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415977835
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415977838
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,699 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Note: information on reaching me, on unpublished texts, etc., follows this bio.

James Elkins grew up in Ithaca, New York, separated from Cornell University by a quarter-mile of woods once owned by the naturalist Laurence Palmer.

He stayed on in Ithaca long enough to get the BA degree (in English and Art History), with summer hitchhiking trips to Alaska, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Columbia. For the last twenty-five years he has lived in Chicago; he got a graduate degree in painting, and then switched to Art History, got another graduate degree, and went on to do the PhD in Art History, which he finished in 1989. (All from the University of Chicago.) Since then he has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is currently E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.

His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes).

Current projects include a series called the Stone Summer Theory Institutes, a book called The Project of Painting: 1900-2000, a series called Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Art, and a book written against Camera Lucida.

He married Margaret MacNamidhe in 1994 on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands, off the West coast of Ireland. Margaret is also an art historian, with a specialty in Delacroix. Jim's interests include microscopy (with a Zeiss Nomarski differential interference microscope and Anoptral phase contrast), optics (he owns an ophthalmologist's slit-lamp microscope), stereo photography (with a Realist camera), playing piano, and (whenever possible) winter ocean diving.

Contact information:

Hi, most everything about me, including unpublished texts, is here:


That site also has a contact form:


And that website also has my travel calendar, in case you live outside the US:


(Amazon won't let people link their Google calendars to their profile page: don't know why.)

I'm also very active on Facebook:


And I am active on Library Thing (posting reviews of contemporary fiction):


PS, I also have an Amazon "aStore," a special site for buying books:


And last, I also have an Amazon Listmania! list:


Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By John Armstrong on May 4, 2008
Format: Paperback
Photography Theory is the second in a projected seven volume series called The Art Seminar, edited by James Elkins and sponsored by University College Cork and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, among other institutions. I have only read this volume, but all evidently have, or will have, the same basic format:

(1) Introduction - an overview survey article commissioned for the book

(2) Starting Points - a small collection of papers on specific topics intended to stimulate discussion.

(3) The Art Seminar proper - the transcript of an extended panel discussion on the subject of the book involving 8-12 participants and gently moderated by Elkins.

(4) Assessments - twenty-five to thirty mostly one-page responses to the panel discussion by qualified people, primarily (exclusively?) academics, including a luminary or two. In this volume those who contributed responses were all different(with one special exception I'll return to below) from those who participated in the panel discussion, but it doesn't seem to be a requirement of the series.

(5) Afterwards - a small number of papers commissioned for the book that discuss the subject with reference (but not necessarily very much reference) to the papers, the panel discussion and the responses.

While not necessarily the most valuable part of the book, the panel discussion is clearly the heart of it. And in the case of Photography Theory it is a faltering one. The participants themselves seem unhappy with the results they achieve, or rather fail to achieve, and acknowledge more or less directly the following shortfalls, among others.

(a) They cannot agree on "the index", a specific theoretical conception, derived from the philosophical work of C.S.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Conrad J. Obregon VINE VOICE on October 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
Even though I've studied philosophy and semiotics extensively I consider myself a photographer rather than a philosopher or semiologist. Yet I believe that photography, or at least art photography, should have meaning. Photography theory as a field has seemed to work at the intersection of philosophy, semiotics and art history. I've thought that it might provide insight into the way that photographs demonstrate meaning and that it might help me to be a better photographer and viewer of photographs. Over the years I've read the important works in photographic theory by authors like Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, and Susan Sontag, and more recently, Michael Fried. Although I often found photographic theory interesting as an intellectual and sociological exercise, nothing in photographic theory seemed to bear any relevance to either my own image making or my appreciation of images of others. Even though its utility to a photographer was suspect, I wanted to test whether my general impression was correct by reading the 2007 "Photography Theory".

This book centers around a seminar of photographic theory academicians held at the University College Cork. The book begins with several introductory essays that were meant to lay the groundwork for the seminar, followed by a transcript of the actual seminar. This is followed by a twenty-seven so-called assessments meant to address the points raised in the seminar, and then two essays meant to wrap up the subject.

The seminar itself dealt with a number of subjects that most photographers would find esoteric. The base question was, "what is photography?", and in attempting to answer that question a number of issues were raised.
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By K. Orders on January 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is mostly a rehashing of the subject on indexicality...is a photo an index or is it not. It is somewhat interesting but i think there are better things to read and a better things to spend money on.
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Set up an Amazon Giveaway

Amazon Giveaway allows you to run promotional giveaways in order to create buzz, reward your audience, and attract new followers and customers. Learn more
Photography Theory (The Art Seminar)
This item: Photography Theory (The Art Seminar)
Price: $34.25
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?