Janet Malcolm takes nothing for granted. In complicated but lucid prose she sets out to change our perceptions of photographers and photography in this highly regarded volume, now in an expanded edition. She looks at Alfred Stieglitz's pioneering efforts on behalf of the medium as an art form, considers Edward Weston's "psychic journey" to Mexico, and reflects on how these men fared at the hands of recent biographers. Malcolm also examines misconceptions about Richard Avedon's fashion photography and analyzes the motives behind his often distressing celebrity portraits. In a new essay, she discusses the charges of exhibitionism leveled at the provocative work of Sally Mann.
From Library Journal
This expanded version of Malcolm's 1980 collection of essays on photography includes five new essays, greater use of photo images, and a new preface to supplement the original. Malcolm, a staff writer for The New Yorker and a talented photography critic, takes images for intellectual rides that sometimes end in surprising places. Still eager to analyze the snapshot style that emerged in the latter half of this century, Malcolm sees these works as art but closer to literature than they are to craft. The newest essays in this collection are by no means her strongest, but they do expand the value of this book by offering more of the connections that the writer makes so well, between the choices made by photographers, reality, the arts in general, and the essence of the visuals she probes. However, even with more images than the original edition, their relative scarcity remains a weakness. Still, this is recommended for photography collections.?David Bryant, New Canaan P.L., Ct.
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