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Photography and the Art of Chance
by Robin Kelsey


Overview -

Photography has a unique relationship to chance. Anyone who has wielded a camera has taken a picture ruined by an ill-timed blink or enhanced by an unexpected gesture or expression. Although this proneness to chance may amuse the casual photographer, Robin Kelsey points out that historically it has been a mixed blessing for those seeking to make photographic art.  Read more...


 
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More About Photography and the Art of Chance by Robin Kelsey
 
 
 
Overview

Photography has a unique relationship to chance. Anyone who has wielded a camera has taken a picture ruined by an ill-timed blink or enhanced by an unexpected gesture or expression. Although this proneness to chance may amuse the casual photographer, Robin Kelsey points out that historically it has been a mixed blessing for those seeking to make photographic art. On the one hand, it has weakened the bond between maker and picture, calling into question what a photograph can be said to say. On the other hand, it has given photography an extraordinary capacity to represent the unpredictable dynamism of modern life. By delving into these matters, "Photography and the Art of Chance" transforms our understanding of photography and the work of some of its most brilliant practitioners.

The effort to make photographic art has involved a call and response across generations. From the introduction of photography in 1839 to the end of the analog era, practitioners such as William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Stieglitz, Frederick Sommer, and John Baldessari built upon and critiqued one another s work in their struggle to reconcile aesthetic aspiration and mechanical process. The root problem was the technology s indifference, its insistence on giving a bucket the same attention as a bishop and capturing whatever wandered before the lens. Could such an automatic mechanism accommodate imagination? Could it make art? "Photography and the Art of Chance" reveals how daring innovators expanded the aesthetic limits of photography to create art for a modern world."

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780674744004
  • ISBN-10: 0674744004
  • Publisher: Belknap Press
  • Publish Date: May 2015
  • Page Count: 416


Related Categories

Books > Photography > History
Books > Photography > Individual Photographers - General
Books > Art > Criticism & Theory

 
Publishers Weekly Reviews

Publishers Weekly® Reviews

  • Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
  • Review Date: 2015-04-06
  • Reviewer: Staff

This ambitious text, both scholarly and affecting, combines art history, psychology, and the history of philosophy and science into a shrewd exploration of “how meaning is produced in a medium prone to chance.” The book focuses on the work of five photographers who revolutionized the medium through their relationship with chance: William Henry Fox Talbot, Julia Margaret Cameron, Frederick Sommer, John Baldessari, and Alfred Stieglitz. Kelsey, a professor of photography at Harvard, discerningly connects their work to various moments in history from the Victorian era through the 21st century: the move away from determinism in the early 19th century, Darwin’s discoveries concerning random biological variation, and changes in the understanding of social morality, particularly regarding the violence and irrationality of the world wars. Each chapter is steeped in social and cultural history, not only highlighting the work of photographers but also of painters (Caspar David Friedrich, J.M.W. Turner) and critics (John Ruskin, Clement Greenberg, Roland Barthes). Though Kelsey’s primary focus is the development of photography, the end result is a wholly informative, refreshing, and rich perspective on photography and Modernism. (May)

 
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