The Photography Reader: History and Theory, 2nd Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Photography Reader

History and Theory, 2nd Edition

Edited by Liz Wells


528 pages

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Paperback: 9780415749183
pub: 2018-10-23
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Hardback: 9780415749176
pub: 2018-10-23
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Following on from its hugely successful first edition, The Photography Reader: History and Theory provides deeper insight into the critical discussions around photography – its production, its uses and its effects. Presenting both the historical ideas and the continuing theoretical debates within photography and photographic study, this second edition contains essays by photographers including Edward Weston and László Moholy-Nagy, and key thinkers such as Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag.

Along with its companion text – The Photography Cultures Reader: Representation, Agency and Identity – this is the most comprehensive introduction to photography and photographic criticism.

This new edition features

  • Over 50 additional photographs
  • New essays from photographers and academics
  • Revised introductions, setting ideas and debates in their historical and theoretical context
  • Sections on Art photography, Documentary and Photomedia.

Includes essays by: Jan Baetens, Roland Barthes, Geoffrey Batchen, David Bate, André Bazin, Walter Benjamin, Lynn Berger, Matthew Biro, Osip Brik, Victor Burgin, Hubert Damisch, Edmundo Desnoes, Umberto Eco, Elizabeth Edwards, Steve Edwards, Andy Grundberg, Lisa Henderson, Estelle Jussim, Sarah Kember, Siegfried Kracauer, Rosalind Krauss, Martin Lister, Lev Manovich, Christian Metz, W. J. T. Mitchell, Tina Modotti, László Moholy-Nagy, Wright Morris, Darren Newbury, Daniel Palmer, Marjorie Perloff, Fred Ritchin, Martha Rosler, Steven Skopik, Abigail Solomon-Godeau, Susan Sontag, Lucy Soutter, John Szarkowski, John Tagg, Hilde Van Gelder, Liz Wells, Ian Walker, Edward Weston, Peter Wollen.


‘A valuable and accessible resource … an outstanding aid for photography students and enthusiasts … highly recommended.’ - Media International Australia inc Culture & Policy

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Notes on contributors


General Introduction


Reflections on Photography


1 Roland Barthes

Extracts from Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (1984)

2 Marjorie Perloff

What Has Occurred Only Once: Barthes's Winter Garden/Boltanski’s Archives of the Dead (1994)

3 Walter Benjamin

Extracts from The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (1973)

4 W. J. T. Mitchell

Extracts from Benjamin and the Political Economy of the Photograph (1986)

5 Siegfried Kracauer

Extracts from Photography (1993)

6 André Bazin

The Ontology of the Photographic Image (1960)

7 Susan Sontag

Photography within the Humanities (1975)

8 Wright Morris

In Our Image (1978)


Photographic Seeing


9 Hubert Damisch

Five Notes for a Phenomenology of the Photographic Image (1978)

10 Osip Brik

What the Eye does not See (1989)

11 László Moholy-Nagy

A New Instrument of Vision (1966)

12 Tina Modotti

Manifesto; on photography (2000)

13 John Szarkowski

Introduction from The Photographer's Eye (1966)

14 Edward Weston

Seeing Photographically (1964)


Meaning and Interpretation


15 Roland Barthes

Rhetoric of the Image (1977)

16 Umberto Eco

A Photograph (1986)

17 Victor Burgin

Looking at Photographs (1982)

18 Ian Walker

Through the Picture Plane: On Looking into Photographs (2005)

19 Estelle Jussim

The Eternal Moment: Photography and Time (1989)

20 Elizabeth Edwards

Objects of Affect: Photography Beyond the Image (2012)

21 Christian Metz

Photography and Fetish (1985)

22 Peter Wollen

Fire and Ice (1984)


Art Photography


23 Abigail Solomon-Godeau

Photography After Art Photography (1984)

24 Rosalind Krauss

Photography’s Discursive Spaces (1982)

25 Andy Grundberg,

The Crisis of the Real: Photography and Postmodernism (1990)

26 Steve Edwards

Snapshooters of History: passages on the postmodern argument (1989)

27 Lucy Soutter

Why Art Photography? (2007)

28 Victor Burgin

Conversation with Hilde Van Gelder (2011)




29 John Tagg

Evidence, Truth and Order: Photographic Records and the Growth of the State (1988)


30 Darren Newbury

Photography and the Visualisation of Working Class Lives in Britain (1999)

31 Martha Rosler

In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography) (1989)

32 Lisa Henderson

Access and Consent in Public Photography (1988)

33 Sarah Kember

‘The shadow of the object’: photography and realism (1996)

34 Hilde Van Gelder and Jan Baetens

A Note on Critical Realism Today (2010)

35 Lynn Berger

The Authentic Amateur and the Democracy of Collecting Photographs (2009)

36 Edmundo Desnoes

Cuba Made Me So (1995)




37 David Bate, Sarah Kember, Martin Lister and Liz Wells

Editorial Statement (2008)

38 Geoffrey Batchen

Photogenics (1998)

39 Daniel Palmer

Redundancy in Photography (2012)

40 Lev Manovich

The Paradoxes of Digital Photography (1995)

41 Fred Ritchin

Extracts from Of Pixels and Paradox (2009)

42 Martin Lister

Introduction from The Photographic Image in Digital Culture (2013)

43 Matthew Biro

From Analogue to Digital Photography: Bernd and Hilla Becher and Andreas Gursky (2012)

44 Steven Skopik

Digital Photography: Truth, Meaning, Aesthetics (2003)


About the Editor

Liz Wells curator and writer, is Professor in Photographic Culture, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Plymouth University, UK. She edited Photography: A Critical Introduction, (Routledge, 2015, 5th ed.) and co-edits photographies, Routledge journals. Publications on landscape include Land Matters, Landscape Photography, Culture and Identity (I B Tauris, 2011). She is series editor for Photography, Place, Environment, Bloomsbury Academic Publishing.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies