Saturday, 4 August 2012

Book Review

The Photograph - Graham Clarke

This book was included in with the course notes, and I have have read snippets of it as I was working through the first module. I thought it was about time I read the book fully.

I have many photography books on my book case, however most of them are on the technical aspects of photography and not the artistic composition of a photograph. Apart from a few books I have from Ansel Adams, this is my first foray into the world of art. Initially I found the book quite difficult to read, and was reading sections over and over trying to fully understand what was being said. However as I got into the book, I found myself understanding it more and more on the first read.

The first chapter of the book asks the question, What is a photograph? it starts off with a brief history of the photograph, which I found interesting to see where it all began. The 1826 heliograph by Joseph Niepce 'View from a window at Gras' being the oldest photograph in existence. The author then takes you though many other photographers, who have helped shaped the field as we know it today.

A major problem I had prior to starting the course was ability to read a photograph and use the correct terminology in order to describe it. The book provided me with the beginnings of a vocabulary for doing exactly that. I have subsequently found this enormously helpful when viewing photographs online and in exhibitions. However it is still early days and this is something I will have to spend some time finding out more about.

The author then goes onto explain how the photographer and the viewer are both both bound by their own cultural frames of reference. This single fact made me realise how context is very important and how much our own life experiences we bring into the viewing of a photograph.

The following chapters then look into the different genres of photograph, landscape photograph, the city in photograph, portrait, documentary and fine art photography. Each chapter starts off with and explanation of how each genre has developed over the years and example photographs are discussed and critiqued. A number of the photographs and photographers are known to me would be instantly recognisable to anyone with an interest in photography. It was interesting to read the authors views and opinions on them. Some I can agree with, and a few I can not, as stated in the book," we must remember that the photograph is itself the product of a photographer" and "the photograph is, in the end, open to endless meanings."

The book has given me a great insight into some great photographers and photographs and an endless list of more to investigate. My intention is to come back to this book in a few months and read it again after I have had time to research some of the photographers and photographers spoken about in the book and visited a few exhibitions and see if my new found acorn of knowledge has started to grow!.