Top critical review
More a polemic than a history
Reviewed in the United States on October 13, 2018
Bystander does not stand on the sidelines. Instead, author Colin Westerbeck dives deep into sometimes shallow waters as he seeks to represent a street photography that is many things, but most decidedly pure of any "taint" of postmodernism. Westerbeck clearly wants to "save" street photography in a world overladen with images and an art history that has all to often ignored street photography as a genre. His ardor however sometimes results in churlish takedowns of artists that are, quite simply, naive (see his discussions of Jeff Wall and Cindy Sherman). Nevertheless, tiresome as it sometimes is, this is an interesting book. The chapters focusing on Atget and Cartier-Bresson are fascinating, if revealing a disinterest or, perhaps, a lack of awareness of post 80s art historical discussions of Romanticism, Victorianism, Modernism, and so forth. So take much of the commentary with a grain of salt. Other reviewers have rightfully criticized the decidedly narrow scope of a book calling itself a history of street photography (Japan, for example, is ignored). This is why it's handy to view the book more as a polemic of it's time. Imperfect as it may be, there is really no alternative. And, it's filled with entertaining writing--how often can anyone say that of a book produced by an academic? Currently priced in hardback for 40.00 and change, the book is a steal. Buy it, if only for the lovely reproductions that yes and alas sometime stretch across the gutter.