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The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art) [Paperback]

by Charlotte Cotton
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art)
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Book Description

September 7, 2009 0500204012 978-0500204016 2

“An essential guide.”—Seattle Post-Intelligencer

For this new edition, Charlotte Cotton brings the story of contemporary art photography up to date with a chapter on artists who emphasize the physical and material properties of photography, who use photography as just one component in their pan-media practice, or who choose to experiment with new modes of dissemination for their work.

Featuring significant and established art photographers such as Isa Genzken and Sherrie Levine alongside a younger generation that includes Florian Maier-Aichen, Sara VanDerBeek, and Walead Beshty, Cotton points to the diversity and energy of art photography in this century. 210 color, 32 b&w illustrations

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Editorial Reviews


“Essential reading for anyone who wishes to make sense of the complex and sometimes baffling world of conceptual art photography” (The Picture Professional)

About the Author

Charlotte Cotton is Department Head & Curator of the Wallis Annenberg Photography Department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Product Details

  • Series: World of Art
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Thames & Hudson; 2 edition (September 7, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0500204012
  • ISBN-13: 978-0500204016
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #91,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 59 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
UPDATE JANUARY 2010: My review of the first (2004) edition is given verbatim below. In the next paragraph I compare the first edition and the second (2009) edition.

The first 217 pages of the 2nd ed. are different in only minor ways from the first 217 pages of the 1st ed.* However, pages 218-241 in the 2nd ed. contain a new final chapter 8, "Physical and Mental," discussing photographic works for which "the very nature of the medium is part of the narrative of the work." Among other topics, chapter 8 covers appropriation (e.g., rephotographing photographs); analog versus digital photography; and photographs in sculptures, collages, multimedia installations, books, and Web sites. Artists discussed in this chapter include James Welling, Isa Genzken, Walead Beshty, Zoe Leonard, An-My Le, Ed Ruscha, Rinko Kawauchi, and others. The writing style is similar to the first seven chapters, and is again of high quality. The "Further Reading" list on pages 242-243 in the 2nd ed. has references as recent as 2009. In conclusion, if you own the 1st ed., you MAY wish to replace it with the 2nd ed., but it's not an absolute must.

* In specific, p.10 has a new paragraph summarizing the new final chapter, material on Sherrie Levine has been moved from p.214 to the new final chapter, and the paragraph on Vibeke Tandberg on p.217 is slightly reworded.


This information-packed paperback, which is relatively small for an art book, has an Introduction and seven chapters.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Survey December 11, 2007
I am a photographer. I also live in New York City where I wander through art galleries displaying photographs with which I have a hard time coming to grips. Charlotte Cotton's book seemed to be aimed right at me.

What distinguishes a contemporary art photograph from other beautiful photographs is not always clear, but like Supreme Court Justice Stewart, I know it when I see it. From what the author suggests, it may be that contemporary art photography is less concerned with the form and more with the content, and that viewers are meant to be semiologists decoding what a photograph stands for.

Cotton begins her book with an introduction that includes a taxonomy of contemporary art photography, and to the extent that classifying an object helps us to know and understand it, the introduction alone justifies the book. Surprisingly, rather than look at style or subject matter, she organizes the book based upon the photographers' motivations and working practices. For example one of the classes is pictures of events that have been specifically organized to be photographed while another is pictures that aim to reproduce or refer back to something in the history of photography and other arts.

Each of the classes is allocated a chapter, and allocates a paragraph each to the work several artists, along with a representative photograph. Cotton explains how the photograph fits into the genre and explains something of the meaning of the work. Most of the photographs are just large enough to provide some appreciation of the work and the explanations are as concise as possible.

The book is meant to be a survey and so is more useful for providing a framework for understanding the overall categories than appreciating any individual picture.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Introduction March 9, 2006
By suzie
This book is a great introduction to understanding the world of contemporary photography. I have appreciated how the chapters are set-up as a look into the main branches of contemporary photography. If you are a photographer, it can help you discover more people who are doing work which relates to your work or inspires you. Because it has information about so many different photographers it cannot cover them all as thoroughly as one might like; however, it acts as a wonderful springboard into further research. I have found it very useful in searching for great works of photography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A bargain March 30, 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has an interesting organization, with the chapters classifying artists according to their artistic vision or motivation. Unfortunately, the text does not do justice to this analytical approach with the description of photographs and photographers being mostly superficial. There isn't much of an attempt to link contemporary photography with its social and cultural environment.

However, what makes the book a real bargain are the photographs. You get to browse through the work of many of the important photographers of the last few decades in one place and to contrast them with one another. The small size of the reproductions is somewhat disappointing, but it is made up by the large number of photographs and the low price of the book. The printing and paper quality are good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read for Art/Photo Students May 3, 2011
By jsb
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I'm currently working on my MFA in Studio Art Photography and this is MUST read. It's contemporary dialogue about photography as art but it delves into sociological as well as technological components associated with this medium.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars In perfect condition
I bought this book used and it is in perfect condition it even looks just like a new one .
Published 10 days ago by wandy
4.0 out of 5 stars A good photographic read
This is a good read that gives insight into the mind of the artist and leads into good discussion for photography classes.
Published 2 months ago by C. Baylor
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll learn a lot
I'm learning a lot of things about the background and concepts behind the work of great photographers, I recommend this book.
Published 4 months ago by CSalazar
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Informational
Its a very dense read, but provides great insight in to modern photography without bias. You get information based on the way of shooting rather then a list of people and why there... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Gail A. Mott
1.0 out of 5 stars So disappointing.
I had high hopes for this book. But, this is not an Aperture like production. Granted, the emphasis here is on current photographic theory and practice. Read more
Published 6 months ago by M. Jenner
4.0 out of 5 stars what is photography as contemporary art?
A viewing of contemporary art photography leaves one feeling like the “boy” and singing with Danny Kaye: “the King is in the altogether, altogether as naked as the day that he was... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Charles D Jaggers
5.0 out of 5 stars The book
A very good essay on photography, essential for those who want to understand the role of photography in art on the whole. I sure recomend it...
Published 10 months ago by armando castro
4.0 out of 5 stars Book for class
Very short as far as representing all of contemporary photography but it's interesting. I wish there were a little more to each artists bio but it's a good jumping off point to... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Amazon addict
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Book
This author is incredibly insightful. She puts into words the things that I can not when it comes to photo appreciation.
Published 14 months ago by Andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Book Review
I have only started, but browsing through the book, there are a few things I don't care about the book.
Published 16 months ago by Annette R. Skewes
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