How do we read a photograph? In this rich and fascinating work, Graham Clarke gives a clear and incisive account of the photograph's historical development, and elucidates the insights of the most engaging thinkers on the subject, such as Roland Barthes and Susan Sontag. From the first misty "heliograph" taken by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1826 to the classic compositions of Cartier-Bresson and Alfred Steiglitz and the striking postmodern strategies of Robert Mapplethorpe, Clarke provides a groundbreaking examination of photography's main subject areaslandscape, the city, portraiture, the body, and reportageas well as a detailed analysis of exemplary images in terms of their cultural and ideological contexts. With over 130 illustrations, The Photograph offers a series of discussions of major themes and genres providing an up-to-date introduction to the history of photography and creating a record of the most dazzling, penetrating, and pervasive images of our time.
Clarke (literary and image studies, Univ. of Kent, Canterbury) contributes one of the first entries in a series of short texts now being published by Oxford that treat aspects of art history. A vast amount has been written about photography, its history, its practitioners and processes, its influences as an art medium, and its power as a documentary medium, and anyone hoping to write a succinct book on the subject is bound to come up short in one or more of these areas. This high-speed, wholly inadequate survey of photography's early years leaves out a sense of the process of discovering and extending photography's capabilities. The bulk of the subject-oriented chapters deal with photography of landscapes, cities, human forms, and events. Throughout, Clarke attempts to focus the discourse on how photographs convey their meaning. The reproduction quality is good, and the images selected from the 20th century are often quite provocative and memorable. An introductory text for large history of photography and general art history collections.Kathleen Collins, New York Transit Museum Archives, Brooklyn