Seizing the Light: A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography, 3rd Edition (Paperback) book cover

Seizing the Light

A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography, 3rd Edition

By Robert Hirsch, Robert Hirsch

© 2017 – Focal Press

594 pages | 370 Color Illus.

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About the Book

The definitive history of photography book, Seizing the Light: A Social & Aesthetic History of Photography delivers the fascinating story of how photography as an art form came into being, and its continued development, maturity, and transformation.

Covering the major events, practitioners, works, and social effects of photographic practice, Robert Hirsch provides a concise and discerning chronological account of Western photography. This fundamental starting place shows the diversity of makers, inventors, issues, and applications, exploring the artistic, critical, and social aspects of the creative process. The third edition includes up-to-date information about contemporary photographers like Cindy Sherman and Yang Yongliang, and comprehensive coverage of the digital revolution, including the rise of mobile photography, the citizen as journalist, and the role of social media.

Highly illustrated with full-color images and contributions from hundreds of artists around the world, Seizing the Light serves as a gateway to the history of photography. Written in an accessible style, it is perfect for students newly engaging with the practice of photography and for experienced photographers wanting to contextualize their own work.

Table of Contents

1. Advancing Towards Photography: The Rise of the Reproduction

2. The Daguerreotype: Image and Object

3. Calotype Rising: The Arrival of Photography

4. Pictures on Glass: The Wet Plate Process

5. World News - Current Events: Picturing Tragedy

6. A New Medium of Communication

7. Standardizing the Practice: A Transparent Truth

8. New Ways of Visualizing Time and Space

9. Suggesting the Subject: The Evolution of Pictorialism

10. Modernism's Innovations

11. The New Culture of Light

12. Social Documents

13. Catching Time

14. From Halftones to Bytes

15. The Atomic Age

16. New Frontiers: Expanding Boundaries

17. Changing Realities

18. Thinking About Photography

19. The Politics of Representation

20. Photography Becomes Digital Imaging

About the Authors

Robert Hirsch is a photographic imagemaker, curator, historian, and writer. Former executive director of CEPA Gallery and now director of Light Research in Buffalo, NY, he has published scores of articles about visual culture and interviewed numerous significant members in the photographic arts. His other books include Exploring Color Photography: From Film to Pixels; Light and Lens: Photography in the Digital Age; Photographic Possibilities: The Expressive Use of Concepts, Equipment, Materials, and Processes; and Transformational Imagemaking: Handmade Photography from 1960 to Now. A former associate editor for Digital Camera and Photovision, Hirsch has also written for Afterimage, Exposure, History of Photography, The Photo Review, Photo Technique, and World Book Encyclopedia, among others. He has curated over 200 exhibitions and has had many one-person and group shows of his own work. For details visit

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PHOTOGRAPHY / Subjects & Themes / Historical