Photography and Doubt  book cover
1st Edition

Photography and Doubt

ISBN 9781138914612
Published November 29, 2016 by Routledge
294 Pages

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Book Description

Recent decades have seen photography’s privileged relationship to the real come under question. Spurred by the postmodern critique of photography in the 1980s and the rise of digital technologies soon thereafter, scholars have been asking who and what built this understanding of the medium in the first place.

Photography and Doubt reflects on this interest in photography’s referential power by discussing it in rigorously historical terms. How was the understanding of photographic realism cultivated in the first place? What do cases of staged and manipulated photography reveal about that realism’s hold on audiences across the medium’s history? Have doubts about photography’s testimonial power stimulated as much knowledge as its realism?

Edited by Sabine T. Kriebel and Andrés Mario Zervigón, Photography and Doubt is the first multi-authored collection specifically designed to explore these questions. Its 13 original essays, illustrated with 73 color images, explore cases when the link between the photographic image and its referent was placed under stress, and when photography was as attuned to its myth-making capabilities as to its claims to authenticity.

Photography and Doubt will serve as a valuable resource for students and scholars in art history, visual and media studies, philosophy, and the history of science and technology.

Table of Contents


List of figures

About the contributors


Sabine T. Kriebel and Andrés Mario Zervigón


Three or Four Kinds of Indeterminacy in the Photograph

Douglas R. Nickel

Part I Between Facticity and Fiction

1 No Room for Doubt? Daguerre and his First Critics

Steffen Siegel

2 Blowing Up the World: On the Evidentiary Cultures of Enlargement, ca, 1893-1917

Jordan Bear

3 A Magician Among the Spirit Photographs: Reflections on Houdini’s Doubt

Louis Kaplan

Part II Instabilities of the Medium

4 Reaching Beyond the Index: The Publication of News Photographs

Thierry Gervais

5 The Camera Work of the PM Sketch Report

Jason E. Hill

6 Robert Capa and the Turn to Forensics

Vincent Lavoie

Part III From Aporia to Anomie: Photography Deconstructed

7 Moholy’s Doubt

Susan Laxton

8 Max Ernst: Graceful Photographer

Adrian Sudhalter

9 Atomisation, Anomie and Farewell to Photography

Sarah Kelleher

Part IV Indeterminacy

10 Controlling Doubt: Abstract Painting and Photography

John J. Curley

11 Clouded Judgment: Conceptual Art, Photography and the Discourse of Doubt

Heather Diack

12 Methodological Position for Second Degree Art History

Robert Slifkin

Selected Bibliography




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Sabine T. Kriebel teaches at the University College Cork, Republic of Ireland, where she has taught modern art and photography since 2004. Kriebel is author of Revolutionary Beauty: The Radical Photomontages of John Heartfield (2014) and has published widely on photography and photography theory, photomontage, and mass-circulation magazines.

Andrés Mario Zervigón is Associate Professor in the Art History Department at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. He is author of John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-Garde Photomontage (2012) and coeditor of Photography and Its Origins (with Sheehan, 2015).


‘This outstanding collection of essays sheds new light on photography’s beguilingly complex relationship to the real. In chapters addressing a wide range of topics, from war photography to conceptual art, the authors tease out threads of doubt, paradox, and enigma that run through the history of the medium. One thing is clear: this is a major new contribution to the field.’

Mia Fineman, Associate Curator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, USA

‘Essays in this exciting collection embrace the uncertainties, ambivalences and contradictions that pulse through photography as a medium. Working fearlessly in photography’s grey zone – between construction and referentiality -- contributors offer historically-grounded insights into a range of genres: from war, through spirit, to fine art photography. The only doubt that the volume dispels is that doubt as a category that has hovered over the medium from its inception opens up a productive and original heuristic for future study.’

Andrea Noble, Professor of Latin American Studies, University of Durham, UK