1st Edition

The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory

Edited By Mark Durden, Jane Tormey Copyright 2020
    474 Pages
    by Routledge

    474 Pages
    by Routledge

    With newly commissioned essays by some of the leading writers on photography today, this companion tackles some of the most pressing questions about photography theory’s direction, relevance, and purpose.

    This book shows how digital technologies and global dissemination have radically advanced the pluralism of photographic meaning and fundamentally transformed photography theory. Having assimilated the histories of semiotic analysis and post-structural theory, critiques of representation continue to move away from the notion of original and copy and towards materiality, process, and the interdisciplinary. The implications of what it means to ‘see’ an image is now understood to encompass, not only the optical, but the conceptual, ethical, and haptic experience of encountering an image. The 'fractal' is now used to theorize the new condition of photography as an algorithmic medium and leads us to reposition our relationship to photographs and lend nuances to what essentially underlies any photography theory — that is, the relationship of the image to the real world and how we conceive what that means.

    Diverse in its scope and themes, The Routledge Companion to Photography Theory is an indispensable collection of essays and interviews for students, researchers, and teachers. The volume also features extensive images, including beautiful colour plates of key photographs.

    List of figures

    List of plates

    List of contributors


    Mark Durden and Jane Tormey


    1. Feeling in photography, the affective turn, and the history of emotions

    Thy Phu, Elspeth H. Brown, and Andrea Noble

    2. Jacques Rancière: aesthetics and photography

    David Bate

    3. Ambiguity, accident, audience: Minor White’s photographic theory

    Todd Cronan

    4. Testing humanism: the transactions of contemporary documentary photography

    Mark Durden

    5. Jeff Wall speaks with David Campany

    Jeff Wall and David Campany

    6. Deleuze and the simulacrum: simulation and semblance in Public Order

    Sandra Plummer

    7. Five versions of the photographic act: archival logic in the work of Andrea Robbins and Max Becher

    Shep Steiner

    8. Jean Baudrillard’s photography—a vision of his own strange world

    Gerry Coulter

    9. Visual episodic memory and the neurophenomenology of digital photography

    Jill Bennett


    10. Seeing the public image anew: photography exhibitions and civic spectatorship

     Robert Hariman and John Louis Lucaites

    11. Still images on the move: theoretical challenges and future possibilities

    Marta Zarzycka

    12. Interview with Ariella Azoulay

    Ariella Azoulay and Justin Carville

    13. Human rights practice and visual violations

    Ruthie Ginsburg

    14. Love the bomb: picturing nuclear explosion

    Paula Rabinowitz

    15. Twice captured: the work of atrocity photography

    Molly Rogers

    16. Presenting the unrepresentable: confrontation and circumvention

    Jane Tormey

    17. The eco-anarchist potential of environmental photography: Richard Misrach and Kate Orff’s Petrochemical America

    Conohar Scott

    18. Counter-forensics and photography

    Thomas Keenan


    19. Derrida and photography theory

    Malcolm Barnard

    20. Image, affect, and autobiography: Roland Barthes’ photographic theory in light of his posthumous publications

    Kathrin Yacavone

    21. Ideation and photography: a critique of François Laruelle’s concept of abstraction

    John Roberts

    22. Fractal photography and the politics of invisibility

    Daniel Rubinstein

    23. Photographic apparatus in the era of tagshot culture

    Mika Elo

    24. Artistic representation and politics: an exchange between Victor Burgin and Hilde Van Gelder

    Victor Burgin and Hilde Van Gelder

    25. Decentering the photographer: authorship and digital photography

    Daniel Palmer

    26. Out of language: photographing as translating

    Nancy Ann Roth

    27. Habitual photography: time, rhythm, and temporalization in contemporary personal photography

    Martin Hand and Ashley Scarlett



    Mark Durden is an artist, writer and academic. He has written extensively on contemporary art and photography. Recent books include Fifty Key Writers on Photography (2012) and Photography Today (2014). With Ian Brown and David Campbell, Durden regularly exhibits as part of the artist group Common Culture. With Campbell he also recently co-curated a number of substantial exhibitions on art and comedy: Double Act (Bluecoat, Liverpool and the MAC, Belfast in 2016) and The Laughable Enigma of Ordinary Life (Arquipélago, centro de artes contemporâneas, São Miguel in 2017). Durden is currently Professor of Photography and Director of the European Centre for Documentary Research at the University of South Wales, UK.


    Jane Tormey is an Honorary Fellow of Loughborough University. Her writing focuses on the exchange of ideas between art practice and other disciplines, the conflict between aesthetics and political content, and the ways in which aesthetic traditions can be disturbed by and through photographic/filmic practices. Published work includes: "The Ghost in the Image" in Boelderl, Leisch-Kiesl (eds.) Die Zukunft gehört den Phantomen ([transcript], 2018); Photographic Realism: Late Twentieth-Century Aesthetics (2013) and Cities and Photography (2012). She is co-editor of Art, Politics and the Pamphleteer (forthcoming 2020) and the book series Radical Aesthetics-Radical Art.