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The Photograph as Contemporary Art (World of Art) 2nd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0500204016
ISBN-10: 0500204012
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.
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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: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #433,445 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By ReviewerWhoPrefersToBeAnonymous VINE VOICE on December 14, 2004
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.

--- DECEMBER 14, 2004, REVIEW OF FIRST (2004) EDITION FOLLOWS ---

This information-packed paperback, which is relatively small for an art book, has an Introduction and seven chapters.
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Format: Paperback
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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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 discovering new photographers.
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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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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 born”. It is questionable art and it rarely is photography.

Charlotte Cotton provides an education in contemporary art photography in the first two pages of Chapter one of her book, its conceptual genesis, its development and its meaning. Otherwise like some other books on the subject one would have continued mystified throughout the whole book.

In essence Photographic Contemporary Art exists when, as the final act of the artist’s installation set-up, the artist photographs it and the photograph becomes the Art. The key point is that the photograph doesn’t have to be a “good” photograph.

This definition reveals the King’s new suit of clothes, and one can enter the world of photography as contemporary art with the necessary magic glasses.

This revelation alone makes the purchase price of the book worthwhile.
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