Providing a new perspective on many of the old stories in the history of photography, Mary Warner Marien's book is a provocative and informative read. She shows how the medium developed in various historical, economic, political, and cultural settings worldwide, and discusses the many uses to which photography has been put-from art to vernacular, documentary to photojournalism, and science to advertising.
Incorporating new research not covered in any other survey, Marien thoughtfully explores ideas generated by and about photography in each period, and examines photography's key role in contemporary art and today's increasing use of digital photography. With a panoply of arresting images by famous photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Steichen, August Sander, and Margaret Bourke-White-as well as many unusual and seldom-seen pictures-the book is as enticing to look at as its original ideas are stimulating to consider.
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Mary Warner Marien's book is interesting and provocative, and provides a new perspective on the history of photography. Each of the eight chapters takes a timeframe of between fifteen and nearly forty years in which to examine the medium through the lenses of art, science, social science, travel, war, fashion, the mass media, and individual practitioners.
These broad topics work alongside a fully developed cultural context in which the emphasis is more on key ideas than individuals. So the reader will follow debates such as the nature of invention, the effect of mass media on morality, the use of imagery as a tool of Western colonialism, and the role of the photograph in advertising, radical politics, and family life. "Focus" boxes highlight interesting cultural or controversial issues, for example "Photography and Futurism" and "Lewis Carroll's Photographs of Children." The author also pays close attention to how contemporary practitioners, commentators, and beholders have talked about specific works, the nature of photography, and the photographer's changing role in society.
In addition to representing the established canon of Europe and the United States, the book benefits from two decades of new research into non-Western photography and yields rarely seen work from Latin America, Africa, India, Russia, China, and Japan. Great names from the world over are well represented: Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier- Bresson, Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, Walker Evans, Roger Fenton, Hannah Höch, Andre Kertesz, Dorothea Lange, Gustave Le Gray, Peter Magubane, Don McCullin, Alexandr Rodchenko, Cindy Sherman, Raghubir Singh, William Henry Fox Talbot, Andy Warhol, and Edward Weston. Additionally, featured in more detail in "Portrait" boxes are photographers such as Margaret Bourke-White, Mathew Brady, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Julia Margaret Cameron, Gertrude Kasebier, Jacob Riis, August Sander, Alfred Stieglitz, and Shomei Tomatsu.
Mary Warner Marien has constructed a richer and more kaleidoscopic account of the history of photography than has previously been available. Her comprehensive survey shows compellingly how photography has sharpened, if not altered forever, our perception of the world.About the Author:
Mary Warner Marien is a professor in the Department of Fine Arts at Syracuse University, New York, where she teaches courses on photographic history as well as on art criticism and its history. She is the author of Photography and its Critics (Cambridge University Press, 1997) as well as numerous articles on the history of photography.
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