essays on photography - Susan Sontag

Joseph Wilson Swan was born in Pallion, Sunderland on 31st October 1828. His interest in photography was ignited when, as a young man, he walked passed a local photographer’s shop which had a Daguerreotype on show in the window. His first essay on photography was inspired by reading an account of Mungo Ponton and his new photographic process known as the carbon process.

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Contemplating these images, I am forcefully reminded of an ambiguous line in ’s pioneering essay On Photography. “A photograph is not an opinion. Or is it?” A photograph frames, angles, selects and focuses as any work of art must do, but it also at some level reflects an objective visual reality, beyond an individual’s control. Making space and time eternal, a photograph shows in two dimensions what materially exists in four, and in this limited respect it shows us the documentary truth. The greatest photographs leapfrog into a fifth dimension and achieve the suggestive poetry of art.

Don Giannatti's Musings: 28 Essays On Photography

In his essay on photography in the Second World War, the publisher of the book, SPIEGEL editor Michael Sontheimer, takes the view of Walter Benjamin, a Berlin Jew who took his life in 1940 while fleeing the Nazis. "Doesn't the photographer," asked Benjamin long before the war, "have the obligation to expose the guilty with his photos?"

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Click here to read a slide-show essay on photography and the American West.

Today Christina Nichole Dickson looks at the topic of Photo Essays

Modesty not being the least of my faults, I want to make it clear, right at the start of this essay on photography as I conceive it and practise it, that I do not come forward as a specialist. Especially not, one might say, of photography and photography theory. I recall the old story of the multi-legged caterpillar, who had no trouble moving about till the day he asked himself what leg to start off with. So, what I’m presenting here is not a professional, far less a professorial paper on photography or art. All I want to do is open up a few tracks which, I hope, will be a useful contribution to the question that some of us here have been raising concerning the idea, the nature of an art specifically geopoetic.

there are more and more covered women,” said writer Susan Sontag in her famous essay On Photography

Photography essay – pick the right topic right away

In his 'Préface à ' 'L'instant decisif' Henri Cartier-Bresson stated his thoughts on photography. Although this text was written in 1952, his aesthetic convictions expressed therein are most probably similar to the convictions he had in 1935, because his formative training in art happened under the guidance of Lhôte. The first sentence is: "J' ai toujours eu une passion pour la peinture" (: 9). Beginning an essay on photography with proclaiming one's own passion for painting shows us the privileged role painting always had in Henri Cartier-Bresson's conception of photography.

Her essay on photography theorist Abigail Solomon-Godeau will be published in the forthcoming Fifty Key Writers on Photography (Routledge, 2012). howie

A Photo Essay on the Great Depression

In his essay on photography for the 1995 Conceptualism exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, photographer Jeff Wall takes the position of a critic. He states that Conceptualism did, in fact, explore the medium specificity of photography and that the movement contributed to the acceptance of photography as fine art. He asserts: "Conceptual art played an important role in the transformation of the terms and conditions within which art-photography defined itself and its relationships with the other arts, a transformation which established photography as an institutionalized modernist form evolving explicitly through the dynamics of its auto-critique."(13) Wall attributes this transformation to two factors. First, he sees photographic Conceptualism as having undermined the kinds of artistic subjectivity represented by photojournalism by offering a parodic reportage without event. Second, he argues that the work negated the technique and imagination of traditional fine art photography by substituting a pose of amateurism. As he describes it, the resulting photographs are so visually banal that they demand to be viewed with a new kind of intellectual seriousness. While Wall's overarching point about the impact of Conceptualism on photography is valid, his assessment of the status of the medium in the 1960s is debatable. Characteristics that he describes as unique to Conceptual Art were in fact much more pervasive in photography. Fine art photographers, as well as and perhaps more than conceptualists, defined their project against the professional mode of journalism. Many art photographers resisted the narrative legibility and compositional resolution of journalistic work and instead explored modes familiar to amateur photography.