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Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography 2nd Edition

4.4 out of 5 stars 47 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0073379210
ISBN-10: 0073379212
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Robert Hirsch is an artist, author, curator, and educator.

Hirsch is the author of Seizing the Light: A History of Photography; Exploring Color Photography: From the Darkroom to the Digital Studio published by McGraw-Hill and Photographic Possibilities: The Expressive Use of Ideas, Materials, and Processes published by Focal Press.

He is a former associate editor for Photovision magazine and is a contributing writer for Afterimage, Digital Photography (UK), exposure, Ilford Photo Newsletter, and The Photo Review.

He was the Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Center for Exploratory and Perceptual Art (CEPA Gallery) in Buffalo, NY.

Hirsch is on the art faculty of SUNY Buffalo and teaches history of photography online through Eastern New Mexico University.

Recently his images have been shown at: University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM; Vermont Center for Photography, Brattleboro, VT; Artspace, New Haven, CT; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn, NY; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, MD; and Stefan Stux Gallery, NY, NY.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education; 2 edition (December 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0073379212
  • ISBN-13: 978-0073379210
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.1 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Brian D. Taylor on May 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
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!
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: 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.
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