Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography

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Photography's great success gives the impression that the major questions that have haunted the medium are now resolved. On the contrary - the most important questions about photography are just beginning to be asked. These fourteen essays, with over 200 illustrations, critically examine prevailing beliefs about the medium and suggest new ways to explain the history of photography. They are organized around the questions: What are the social consequences of aesthetic practice? How does photography construct ...
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Overview

Photography's great success gives the impression that the major questions that have haunted the medium are now resolved. On the contrary - the most important questions about photography are just beginning to be asked. These fourteen essays, with over 200 illustrations, critically examine prevailing beliefs about the medium and suggest new ways to explain the history of photography. They are organized around the questions: What are the social consequences of aesthetic practice? How does photography construct sexual difference? How is photography used to promote class and national interests? What are the politics of photographic truth?

The Contest of Meaning summarizes the challenges to traditional photographic history that have developed in the last decade out of a consciously political critique of photographic production. Contributions by a wide range of important Americans critics reexamine the complex - and often contradictory - roles of photography within society.

Douglas Crimp, Christopher Phillips, Benjamin Buchloh, and Abigail Solomon Godeau examine the gradually developed exclusivity of art photography and describe the politics of canon formation throughout modernism. Catherine Lord, Deborah Bright, Sally Stein, and Jan Zita Grover examine the ways in which the female is configured as a subject, and explain how sexual difference is constructed across various registers of photographic representation.

Carol Squiers, Esther Parada, and Richard Bolton clarify the ways in which photography serves as a form of mass communication, demonstrating in particular how photographic production is affected by the interests of the powerful patrons of communications. Thethree concluding essays, by Rosalind Krauss, Martha Rosler, and Allan Sekula, critically examine the concept of photographic truth by exploring the intentions informing various uses of "objective" images within society.

Richard Bolton is an artist and writer who has exhibited and published widely. He has taught in the Visible Language Workshop at MIT's Media Laboratory and at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester.

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
An alternative history of photography, based on a critique of traditional, formalist photographic history and practice. Illustrated with some 200 b&w photographs, these essays explore the politics of representation, production, and promotion, with attention devoted equally to commercial, documentary, and art photography. Serious--not a coffee-table collection. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262022880
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 12/15/1989
  • Pages: 427
  • Product dimensions: 8.58 (w) x 11.08 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven J. Luck is is Professor of Psychology and a core member of the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, Davis.

George R. Mangun is Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Davis.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
The Contest of Meaning: Critical Histories of Photography

Richard Bolton
What are the social consequences of aesthetic practice?
The Museum's Old/The Library's New Subject
Douglas Crimp
The Judgment Seat of Photography
Christopher Phillips
From Faktura to Factography
Benjamin H.D. Buchloh
The Armed Vision Disarmed: Radical Formalism from Weapon to
Style

Abigail Solomon-Godeau
How does photography construct difference?
What Becomes a Legend Most: The Short, Sad Career of Diane
Arbus

Catherine Lord
Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men: An Inquiry into the Cultural
Meanings of Landscape Photography

Deborah Bright
The Graphic Ordering of Desire: Modernization of a Middle-Class
Women's Magazine, 1914-39

Sally Stein
Dykes in Context: Some Problems in Minority Representation
Jan Zita Grover
How is photography used to promote class and national
interests?
The Corporate Year in Pictures
Carol Squires
C/Overt Ideology: Two Images of Revolution
Esther Parada
In the American East: Richard Avedon Incorporated
Richard Bolton
What are the politics of photographic truth?
Photography's Discursive Spaces
Rosalind Krauss
in, around, and afterthoughts (on documentary photography)
Martha Rosler
The Body and the Archive
Allan Sekula
Contributors
Index
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