The Photography Reader : History and Theory book cover
2nd Edition

The Photography Reader
History and Theory

Edited By

Liz Wells

ISBN 9780415749183
Published October 25, 2018 by Routledge
558 Pages

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Book Description

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, Ian Walker, Liz Wells, Edward Weston, Peter Wollen.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Notes on contributors


General Introduction


Reflections on Photography


1 Roland Barthes

Extracts from Camera Lucida

2 Marjorie Perloff

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

3 Walter Benjamin

Extracts from The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

4 W. J. T. Mitchell

Benjamin and the Political Economy of the Photograph

5 Siegfried Kracauer


6 André Bazin

The Ontology of the Photographic Image

7 Susan Sontag

Photography within the Humanities

8 Wright Morris

In Our Image


Photographic Seeing


9 Hubert Damisch

Five Notes for a Phenomenology of the Photographic Image

10 Osip Brik

What the Eye does not See

11 László Moholy-Nagy

A New Instrument of Vision 

12 Tina Modotti

Manifesto by Tina Modotti "Sobre la Fotografía" (On Photography)

13 John Szarkowski

Introduction to The Photographer's Eye

14 Edward Weston

Seeing Photographically 


Meaning and Interpretation


15 Roland Barthes

Rhetoric of the Image 

16 Umberto Eco

A Photograph 

17 Victor Burgin

Looking at Photographs

18 Ian Walker

Through the Picture Plane: On Looking into Photographs

19 Estelle Jussim

The Eternal Moment: Photography and Time

20 Elizabeth Edwards

Objects of Affect: Photography Beyond the Image

21 Christian Metz

Photography and Fetish

22 Peter Wollen

Fire and Ice


Art Photography


23 Abigail Solomon-Godeau

Photography After Art Photography

24 Rosalind Krauss

Photography’s Discursive Spaces: Landscape/View

25 Andy Grundberg,

The Crisis of the Real: Photography and Postmodernism

26 Steve Edwards

Snapshooters of History: passages on the postmodern argument

27 Lucy Soutter

Why Art Photography?

28 Victor Burgin

Conversation with Hilde Van Gelder




29 John Tagg

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

30 Darren Newbury

Photography and the Visualisation of Working Class Lives in Britain

31 Martha Rosler

In, Around, and Afterthoughts (On Documentary Photography)

32 Lisa Henderson

Access and Consent in Public Photography

33 Sarah Kember

‘The shadow of the object’: photography and realism

34 Hilde Van Gelder and Jan Baetens

Introduction: A Note on Critical Realism Today

35 Lynn Berger

The Authentic Amateur and the Democracy of Collecting Photographs

36 Edmundo Desnoes

Cuba Made Me So




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

Editorial Statement

38 Geoffrey Batchen


39 Daniel Palmer

Redundancy in Photography

40 Lev Manovich

The Paradoxes of Digital Photography

41 Fred Ritchin

Extracts from Of Pixels and Paradox

42 Martin Lister

Introduction from The Photographic Image in Digital Culture

43 Matthew Biro

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

44 Steven Skopik

Digital Photography: Truth, Meaning, Aesthetics


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


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