Photography: A Critical Introduction – Edited by Liz Wells

The first edition of this book was published in 1996 and is now into its third edition, which surprisingly hasn’t been updated since 2004.  Established now as one of THE books about the origins of the genre’s and styles within photography without all the cult following of the ‘masters’.  Sure it has to mention the big names as they started most of the movements, but this is an academic work that sets the scenes of how things happened and why.  Since writing this review I’ve learned that there is a fourth edition published in 2009.  What the actual differences are between the new edition and the third that I read is unclear and I’ll have to try to get a copy to add to my permanent collection.

I had a couple of chapters that I didn’t find particularly interesting and as a result became bored with the language and had difficulty finishing them, but overall I found this a very easy read (by that I mean that the technical wording was spread out and only used when absolutely necessary, therefore making the text flow and resulted in an enjoyable read).

What can I say about this book that hasn’t already been said?  I’m not sure that I’ve actually resolved everything it had to offer within my own mind yet, so to try to critique it wouldn’t do it justice and would be unfair as I’d probably miss something important and give a wrong slant to everything.  What I can say is that I came away with a better understanding of how photography has developed since the 1840’s and how and why certain ‘masters’ did what they did, so when discussions take place now about different movements and future developments I at least have an understanding of where it all comes from.

I think this is another book that I’ll have to add to my permanent collection as it will need to be re-read at different stages throughout the BA course to develop a more in-depth understanding of the book and the course.  I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to develop an understanding of photography past, present and food for thought for the future.

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