Photography: History and Theory

Paperback (Print)
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 36%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $29.30
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 43%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (17) from $29.30   
  • New (10) from $40.11   
  • Used (7) from $29.30   


Photography: History and Theory introduces students to both the history of photography and critical theory.

From its inception in the nineteenth century, photography has instigated a series of theoretical debates. In this new text, Jae Emerling therefore argues that the most insightful way to approach the histories of photography is to address simultaneously the key events of photographic history alongside the theoretical discourse that accompanied them.

While the nineteenth century is discussed, the central focus of the text is on modern and contemporary photographic theory. Particular attention is paid to key thinkers, such as Baudelaire, Barthes and Sontag. In addition, the centrality of photography to contemporary art practice is addressed through the theoretical work of Allan Sekula, John Tagg, Rosalind
Krauss, and Vilém Flusser. The text also includes readings of many canonical photographers and exhibitions including: Atget, Brassai, August Sander, Walker Evans, The Family of Man, Diane Arbus, Lee Friedlander, Cindy Sherman,
Bernd and Hilla Becher, Sebastaio Salgado, Jeff Wall, and others.

In addition, Emerling provides close readings of key passages from some major theoretical texts. These glosses come between the chapters and serve as a conceptual line that connects them. Glosses include:

  • Roland Barthes, "The Rhetoric of the Image" (1964)
  • Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others (2002)
  • Michel Foucault on the archive (1969)
  • Walter Benjamin, "Little History of Photography" (1931)
  • Vilém Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983)

A substantial glossary of critical terms and names, as well as an extensive bibliography, make this the ideal book for courses on the history and theory of photography.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Jae Emerling has done the near impossible: he has written an introduction to the history and theory of photography that also adds significantly to the ways in which we come to see, know, and understand the world. Here, by focusing on the 'and' between history and theory, photography itself becomes ingeniously a form of thinking. Photography is history, is theory, is technology, is archive, is document, is truth, is time, is knowledge, is a way to generate new worlds politically and aesthetically. Emerling writes that 'to study the history and theory of photography is to write and create alongside—and in the middle of—images.' He couldn't be more right.' – Marquard Smith, Director, Institute for Modern and Contemporary Culture, University of Westminster, UK

'Jae Emerling has produced a timely and thoroughly useful book that shows how the history of photography and the theories encouraged by that history have shaped our experience of the photographic work of art. His writing eloquently and accessibly considers those debates that have lead to the concepts through which contemporary practitioners and viewers alike now confront the ‘impossible object’ of an art photograph. This book is a must for anyone serious about the production, appreciation, or use of photographic images in the 21st century. Emerling’s work beautifully defines artistic practice and theory as complementary but not identical, and points out that images are always already ensembles of history and ideas. For as he so succinctly states in his introduction, ‘The footprint of a bird is not a bird’.' – William Wylie, Professor of Art, University of Virginia, USA

'Photography offers the most complex limit case for understanding representation in our time. What Emerling has done in situating the discourse of art photography on the dual thresholds of aesthetics/ethics and theory/history, is to open up the field to the ontological complexity of its subject domain. This book is an astonishing performance, a nuanced and lucid argument addressed to all those interested in why photography matters today.' Claire Farago, Professor of Art History, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA

'In exploring photography's inexorable relationship to theory Emerling has produced an elegant and rigorous analysis of key theoretical junctures within the history of this crucial medium of visual culture... [T]his excellent study is likely to become an indispensible volume for graduate students and scholars of photography and those interested in theories of visual culture. Highly recommended.' M.R. Freeman, CHOICE magazine

‘…we are now witnessing the publication of more single-voiced books [that] succeed in adding new perspectives and insights on photography, as Photography: History and Theory convincingly does’ – Helen Westgeest, CAA reviews

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415778558
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 2/17/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 952,271
  • Product dimensions: 0.62 (w) x 0.92 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jae Emerling is assistant professor of modern and contemporary art at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of Theory for Art History (Routledge).

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction 1: The Thing Itself Gloss on Walter Benjamin, "Little History of Photography" (1931) 2: Frame (Matter and Metaphor) Gloss on Roland Barthes, "Rhetoric of the Image" (1964) 3: Documentary, or Instants of Truth Gloss on Susan Sontag, "Regarding the Pain of Others" (2002) 4: The Archive as Producer Gloss on Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (1969) 5: Time-Images Gloss on Vilém Flusser, Towards a Philosophy of Photography (1983)

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2013

    Emerling puts together both contemporary photographic theory and

    Emerling puts together both contemporary photographic theory and photo history into a cogent and well researched statement about where photography is today.  
    I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in knowing more about photography. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)