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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the One Great Book on the History of Photography!
Seizing the Light: A History of Photography. is a wonderfully broad, contemporary, eclectic and entertaining book. Robert Hirsch has produced the most useful, readable, and practical successor to Beaumont Newhall's classic, The History of Photography, first published in 1937. Seizing the Light is written in a friendly, accessible way -- dense with information, but more...
Published on May 9, 2005 by Brian D. Taylor

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1 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Book not in new condition!!
Amazon needs to contribute a partial refund on this book. It is not pristine new condition. The covers are dog eared and bent up. Being used as a reference book, I am sorely disappointed I was sent a lightly damaged copy when I had paid for a brand new, pristine copy. Damage to a paper cover is simply not acceptable when one purchases new.

Needing to read it, I...
Published on September 27, 2010 by dm


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52 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the One Great Book on the History of Photography!, May 9, 2005
Seizing the Light: A History of Photography. is a wonderfully broad, contemporary, eclectic and entertaining book. Robert Hirsch has produced the most useful, readable, and practical successor to Beaumont Newhall's classic, The History of Photography, first published in 1937. Seizing the Light is written in a friendly, accessible way -- dense with information, but more hip and lively than other offerings, especially those aimed at college students. Hirsch includes the "canon" of standard western photographic history (represented by Stieglitz, Weston, Adams, White, et. al.) first set forth by Newhall and other researchers, but updates the information with special emphasis on the last five decades of photographic practice, including digital imaging.

Many teachers and interested readers will greatly appreciate Hirsch's conscious effort throughout the book, to include numerous women and photographers from other cultures. (Chapter Two opens with an image of an American Indian, and includes a portrait of an African-American, affording students the realization that marginalized groups actually did appear as subjects before the camera in addition to working behind them.)

Students will also appreciate Hirsch's habit of opening new chapters with a description of cultural and political events occurring during the period under discussion: Chapter Twelve starts with a harrowing description of life for immigrants in New York City in the late Nineteenth Century during the time of Jacob Riis, and Chapter Seventeen has a helpful summary of the ending of the Vietnam War, connecting it smoothly to such diverse influences as Richard Nixon and the BeeGees! There are also wonderful endnotes following each chapter that are absolutely addictive, giving curious readers further information and surprising tidbits of information.

Hirsch's knowledge gained as a Director of CEPA Gallery in Buffalo (a contemporary non-profit Artist's space) provides him with exceptional insight into contemporary photography. This is especially evident in his last Chapter, Eighteen, "Thinking About Photography," which abounds with infrequently seen and challenging images by Arnulf Rainer, Nam June Paik, John Baldessari, Anselm Keifer, Gilbert and George, William Wegman and the Bechers. There is a clear and helpful section on Postmodernism, including the usual suspects: Cindy Sherman, Richard Prince, Barbara Kruger, Sherrie Levine, and Victor Burgin. There are sections on "Gender Issues" with Judith Golden, as well as one on "Fabrications" with Sandy Skoglund, Olivia Parker, Joel Peter Witkin and others. "Altering Time and Space" includes David Hockney, the Starn Twins, and the delicious hand-colored work of Holly Roberts. Other sections include "Investigating the Body" (Andres Serrrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, Nan Goldin, Sally Mann) and "Multiculturalism" (Clarissa Sligh, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, and the Guerilla Girls). Hirsch closes this bulging chapter with a discussion of digital imaging, including images by Pedro Meyer, Nancy Burson and several rising young artists in new media. He concludes with an extensive bibliography of related books and resources, a helpful list of monographs by the major artists presented throughout the text, and a section on sources for artists' books.

Robert Hirsch has produced a most impressive and useful book that readers will find engaging and relevant. The currency and eclectic nature of Hirsch's thought is fascinating and his book serves as a much-needed supplement to existing texts in the history of photography.

(Submitted by Brian Taylor, Professor of Art and Design at San Jose State University, where he has taught the History of Photography for 25 years. Prior to that, he studied with Beaumont Newhall for three years during graduate school at the University of New Mexico.)
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Persistence of Fine Books, December 29, 2005
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For everyone with an interest in photography, either as an artist of the medium, a beginner looking for direction, or a collector who wants informed background to enhance appreciation of fine photographs both from the past and from the present obsession, SEIZING THE LIGHT: A History of Photography is essential reading.

Robert Hirsch knows his subject and in one hefty book manages to share the beginnings of photography some 200 years ago with the evolution of the camera and the discipline of photographing. Well illustrated with both photographs and drawings, Hirsch chronicles the famous and not so famous practitioners of the art in succinct but richly colorful biographical abstracts to accompany examples of each artist. The phases through which this art form has passed makes for fascinating reading even beyond the scope of the title: the use of the camera in documenting the history of our globe at celebration, at war, at discovery, and at the side of the people of the day is a journey well lead by a writer well skilled.

Though this book is now six years old it remains one of the more important textbooks for the art school classroom. But more important it is so richly written that it remains a fascinating survey of life since the camera. From the beginnings of the pinhole box to the present day digital images on the cell phone etc, the invention of the camera has inextricably changed our perception of the world. Learn the how and why of it! Highly recommended. Grady Harp, December 05
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seizing the Photographic Light, March 23, 2006
By 
C. J. Bohan (Peoria, IL United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Overall a great book on the history of photography. VERY comprehensive overview of the evolution of photography. It ties movements in art and social events into photography trends and developments. It also provides insight into how photographers and artists used the medium to express themselves and how experimentation lead to improvements over the years. My only negative comment would be that some of the earlly forms of cameras were not pictured. There were diagrams of early cameras, but after the first hundred years, there is little to no documentation on how they evolved cosmetically/ functionally. It'd be nice to see an example of the various "groundbreaking" cameras as they were discussed. Otherwise, a great book.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly a fine book, but not a five-star, August 4, 2009
By 
R. B. Hallock (Leverett, MA USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography (Paperback)
Hirsch's new edition of his Seizing the Light is now properly titled, with "Social History of Photography" in the title. The addition of the word "social" creates a proper title for a book that puts so much emphasis on the social context. This is a fine book on the history of photography, no question about that. There is much to be admired in this book and it certainly does belong on the shelf of anyone who wants such a reference. It provides a wealth of information and is pleasant to read. But, unless changes were made from the earlier edition (which is the one I have and am commenting on) it is not perfect. Since most of the reviews glow with admiration, let me not trouble you with more praise, but let me comment on a couple of things that trouble me about the book.

While there is much to admire about this book, my admiration for the book is tempered by two things bother me about this book: (1) the strange treatment and absences in the case of some of the icons who are no longer with us and (2) an almost clinical listing of numerous younger photographers. The latter presents us with something like a catalog listing with no basis for the decision on who to include and who to leave out, with some important contemporary figures not even mentioned.

The failure to give much print or discussion to some amazingly influential and important photographers is what troubles me most about this book. For example, Brett Weston, a major figure in the history of photography, is barely mentioned and I recall no examples of his work in the book (my edition). Similarly, Margaret Mather, a gifted photographer in her own right, and indeed a photographer who greatly influenced the photographic development of Edward Weston, is also barely mentioned. These are major lapses in a book that is a history of photography. There are others. But, when paragraphs are devoted to younger and far less relevant photographers, the absence of any serious mention of some of the major earlier figures is disturbing.

All that said, I am glad I own this book and would buy it again even after seeing my own review. It is basically a fine book by a capable author - in spite of my quibbles.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modernity Begins with the Advent of Photography, February 15, 2008
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Robert Hirsch's survey of the origins and evolution of photography, "Seizing the Light," is a welcome addition to the expanding study of the medium. In clear, insightful, and engaging prose, Hirsch unfolds photography's hit-or-miss birth which was rapidly followed by coherent technological developments almost at the speed of light. Hirsch makes us believe that photography was inevitable; the darling and necessary child of destiny wed to information theory. And Hirsch's treatment of early 20th century Modernist photography and the philosophy behind Pictorialism is excellent.

As a primer for the invention of photography and its chemical underpinnings, "Seizing the Light" is as good as it can be. It falls a little short, however, in its treatment of contemporary photography. The book would have been better served by including a few in-depth surveys of important contemporary photographic projects in order to emphasize the centrality of this discipline in contemporary art history and postmodern theory which is heavily dependent on the nature of images and processes of image-making.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine survey, May 5, 2010
By 
John Bowes (Oxford, MA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography (Paperback)
As a text, this is beneficial. One caveat being the pictures do not live up to a fine print of the work. Many pictures that can take your breath away, are not impressive here. A great place to start.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Initially, I hated this book., December 27, 2012
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This review is from: Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography (Paperback)
History can be boring, and dry. The book starts with, as one may expect, the dawn of photography. At first, I avoided this book, letting my reading for class pile up until midterms hit and SURPRISE! I found myself needing to read half of a textbook. It was that task that lead me to love this book. I sat and read it, which at first, was painful. Then as it drew on, I realized, that I was enjoying learning the roots of my passion, and that Hirsch wrote it in such a way that drew me in, and was actually entertaining. I got a 102% on that midterm, and I went on to buy a used copy of this book when I stumbled across it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Photo History textbook, February 18, 2011
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This review is from: Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography (Paperback)
I'm enrolled in a basic photography history course at a community college. This is the textbook we were assigned to buy for the class. The book is well put together and full of great facts. The size is rather large but this allows for the many pictures and nice size text used in the book. The chapters flow well and the book is not hard to read. I am all around satisfied with the textbook. I also found out after purchasing it that it's available for digital download onto the Kindle. Some in my class have downloaded it and say they read it throught the day and can study on the go with the book in digital format.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great history book, December 30, 2008
There's a lot of photography history books out there, and this is one of my favorites. This is great for someone looking for basic history or for someone that's looking for a little more. While like most large bulk history books it doesn't go overly in depth but its a great springboard for photo history.
I would recommend this book for anybody getting into photography both student and hobbyist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good book, April 4, 2013
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This review is from: Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography (Paperback)
This book delves into more of the cultural and societal implications of photography. Highly recommend for photo students and those interested in photographic history.
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Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography
Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography by Robert Hirsch (Paperback - December 9, 2008)
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