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Photographic Theory: An Historical Anthology

Photographic Theory: An Historical Anthology

Andrew E. Hershberger

ISBN: 978-1-405-19846-2

Jan 2014, Wiley-Blackwell

476 pages

In Stock



Hershberger is the winner of a 2015 Insight Award from the Society for Photographic Education for his work on this book and for his overall contributions to the field!

Photographic Theory: An Historical Anthology presents a compendium of readings spanning ancient times to the digital age that are related to the history, nature, and current status of debates in photographic theory.

  • Offers an authoritative and academically up-to-date compendium of the history of photographic theory
  • Represents the only collection to include ancient, Renaissance, and 19th-, 20th-, and 21st-century writings related to the subject
  • Stresses the drama of historical and contemporary debates within theoretical circles
  • Features comprehensive coverage of recent trends in digital photography
  • Fills a much-needed gap in the existing literature

I. Before Photography to Invention: c. 380 B.C.E.-1839


1.1 Excerpts from the Allegory of the Cave. In The Republic
Plato, c. 380 B.C.E.

1.2 The Function of the Eye, As Explained by the Camera Obscura
Leonardo Da Vinci, c. 1520

1.3 Description of the Camera Lucida
William H. Wollaston, 1807


1.4 Excerpts on Linear Perspective. In On Painting.
Leon Battista Alberti, 1540

1.5 Account of the late Mr. [Robert] Barker
Anonymous, 1806

1.6 Description of the Process of Painting and Effects of Light Invented by Daguerre, and Applied by Him to the Pictures of the Diorama
Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, 1839

II. Invention to Pictorialism: 1839-c. 1880

What is Photography?

2.1 Some Account of the Art of Photogenic Drawing
William Henry Fox Talbot, 1839 [March]

2.2 The Pencil of Nature. A New Discovery
Nathaniel Parker Willis and Timothy O. Porter eds., 1839 [April]

2.3 Report [on the Daguerreotype to the Chamber of Deputies]
François Arago, 1839 [July]


2.4 Upon Photography in an Artistic View, and in Its Relations to the Arts
Sir William J. Newton, 1853

2.5 La Photographie
Antoine Joseph Wiertz, 1855

2.6 Photography
Eastlake, Lady (Elizabeth) 1857


2.7 The Stereoscope and the Stereograph
Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1859

2.8 Combination Printing. In Pictorial Effect in Photography
Henry Peach Robinson, 1869

2.9 Annals of My Glass House
Julia Margaret Cameron, 1874

III. Pictorialism to/and/vs. Modernism: c. 1880-c. 1920


3.1 Focussing. In Naturalistic Photography for Students of the Art
Peter Henry Emerson, 1890

3.2 The Death of Naturalistic Photography
Peter Henry Emerson, 1890

3.3 The Hand Camera—Its Present Importance
Alfred Stieglitz, 1896

Interdisciplinary Approaches

3.4 Photo-Chemical Investigations and a New Method of Determination of the Sensitiveness of Photographic Plates
Ferdinand Hurter and Vero C. Driffield, 1890

3.5 Logic as Semiotic: The Theory of Signs
Charles Sanders Peirce, c. 1900

3.6 Intuition and Art. In Æsthetic: As Science of Expression and General Linguistic
Benedetto Croce, 1902

3.7 The Cinematographical Mechanism of Thought and the Mechanistic Illusion...In Creative Evolution
Henri Bergson, 1907

What Should Photographs Look Like?

3.8 On the Straight Print
Robert Demachy, 1907

3.9 What is a "Straight Print"?
Frederick H. Evans, 1907

3.10 Photography and Artistic-Photography
Marius De Zayas, 1913

IV. Modernism to Postmodernism: c. 1920-c. 1960


4.1 Photography and the New God
Paul Strand, 1922

4.2 Light: A Medium of Plastic Expression
László Moholy-Nagy, 1923

4.3 Seeing Photographically
Edward Weston, 1943

4.4 The Camera's Glass Eye
Clement Greenberg, 1946

What Should Photographs Look Like?

4.5 Aims
Albert Renger-Patzsch, 1927

4.6 A Personal Credo
Ansel Adams, 1943

4.7 Our Illustrations
Frank R. Fraprie, 1943

4.8  Photography at the Crossroads
Berenice Abbott, 1951

Art /History

4.9 Excerpts from Perspective as Symbolic Form
Erwin Panofsky, 1927

4.10 The Age of the World Picture
Martin Heidegger, 1938/52

4.11 Excerpts from Museum Without Walls
André Malraux, 1947

Interdisciplinary Approaches

4.12 Photography and Typography
Jan Tschichold, 1928

4.13 The Making of a Film. In Film as Art
Rudolph Arnheim, 1932

4.14 The Ontology of the Photographic Image. In What Is Cinema?
André Bazin, 1945

What is Photography?

4.15 Mechanism and Expression, the Essence and Value of Photography
Franz Roh, 1929

4.16 Introduction to The Decisive Moment
Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952

4.17 Photography
Siegfried Kracauer, 1960

V. Modernism and Postmodernism to Digital Imaging: c. 1960-c. 1990


5.1 Equivalence: The Perennial Trend
Minor White, 1963

5.2 Perspective. In Languages of Art
Nelson Goodman, 1968

5.3 Can There Ever Again Be a History of Photography?
Peter C. Bunnell, 1975

5.4 Introduction to Before Photography: Painting and the Invention of Photography
Peter Galassi, 1981

5.5 New Metaphorics: Spirit and Symbol in Contemporary Landscape Photography
Gretchen Garner, 1988


5.6 Introduction to The Photographer's Eye
John Szarkowski, 1966

5.7 Post-Visualization
Jerry Uelsmann, 1967

5.8 Introduction to New Topographics
William Jenkins, 1975

Interdisciplinary Approaches

5.9 Excerpts from The World Viewed
Stanley Cavell, 1971

5.10 Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America
Rosalind Krauss, 1977

5.11 Photography and Fetish
Christian Metz, 1985

5.12 Film, Photography, and Fetish: The Analyses of Christian Metz
Ben Singer, 1988

What is Photography?

5.13 On the Nature of Photography
Rudolf Arnheim, 1974

5.14 Photography, Vision, and Representation
Joel Snyder and Neil Allen, 1975

5.15 The Directorial Mode: Notes Toward a Definition
A. D. Coleman, 1976

5.16 Selections from Transparent Pictures: On the Nature of Photographic Realism
Kendall L. Walton, 1984

5.17 The Photograph as Post-Industrial Object: An Essay on the Ontological Standing of Photographs
Vilém Flusser, 1986


5.18 The Traffic in Photographs
Allan Sekula, 1981

5.19 Of Mother Nature and Marlboro Men: An Inquiry into the  Cultural Meanings of Landscape Photography
Deborah Bright, 1985

5.20 Excerpts from Right of Inspection
Jacques Derrida, 1985

5.21 Fetal Images: The Power of Visual Culture in the Politics of Reproduction
Rosalind Pollack Petchesky, 1987

VI. Postmodernism and Digital Imaging (Return to Pictorialism?): c. 1990-c. 2010

What is Digital Photography?

6.1 The Transcendental Machine? A Comparison of Digital Photography and Nineteenth-Century Modes of Photographic Representation
Diana Emery Hulick, 1990

6.2 Photojournalism in the Age of Computers
Fred Ritchin, 1990

6.3 Phantasm: Digital Imaging and the Death of Photography. In Metamorphoses
Geoffrey Batchen, 1994

6.4 Escaping Reality: Digital Imagery and the Resources of Photography
Barbara E. Savedoff, 1997

6.5 Fixing the Art of Digital Photography: Electronic Shadows
Ellen Handy, 1998

6.6 Digital Ontologies: The Ideality of Form in/and Code Storage—or—Can Graphesis Challenge Mathesis?
Johanna Drucker, 2001


6.7 Do Not Doubt the Dangerousness of the 12-Inch-Tall Politician
David Wojnarowicz, 1991

6.8 The Politics of Focus: Feminism and Photography Theory
Lindsay Smith, 1992

6.9 Re-Picturing Photography: A Language in the Making
Aphrodite Désirée Navab, 2001

6.10 A Painful Labour: Responsibility and Photography
Sharon Sliwinski, 2004


6.11 Clement Greenberg and Walker Evans: Transparency and Transcendence
Mike Weaver, 1991

6.12 The Shadows on the Wall. In The Reconfigured Eye:Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era
William J. Mitchell, 1992

6.13 Of Fish, Birds, Cats, Mice, Spiders, Flies, Pigs, and Chimpanzees: How Chance Casts the Historic Action Photograph into Doubt
Robin Kelsey, 2009


6.14 The Invisible Dragon: On Beauty I
Dave Hickey, 1991

6.15 The Idiom in Photography as the Truth in Painting
Rosemary Hawker, 2002

6.16 "Impressed by Nature's Hand": Photography and Authorship
Douglas R. Nickel, 2009

Photography and Memory

6.17 Surviving Images: Holocaust Photographs and the Work of Postmemory
Marianne Hirsch, 2001

6.18 Visualizing Memory: Photographs and the Art of Biography
Deborah Willis, 2003

6.19 Remembering September 11: Photography as Cultural Diplomacy
Liam Kennedy, 2003

6.20 Through a Glass, Darkly: Photography and Cultural Memory
Alan Trachtenberg, 2008

Interdisciplinary Approaches

6.21 Curiosity and Conjecture: Mathematics, Photography, and the Imagination
David Travis, 2003

6.22 Image as Trace: Speculations about an Undead Paradigm
Peter Geimer, 2007

6.23 The Photographic Argument of Philosophy
Alexander Sekatskiy, 2010

Works Cited and Further Reading
Credits, Sources, and Acknowledgments

"There can be no question that those of us who teach the history of photography – and our students – have been put most deeply in Hershberger’s debt."  (History of Photography Online, 1 June 2015)

"This chronologically (and, to a lesser extent, thematically) organized selection of key contributions to photographic theory display both the highly exciting diversity of theoretical questions raised by the emergence, development, triumph, and eventual metamorphosis of photography and the amazing possibility to organize the sometimes savage heterogenity of this material along unobtrusive and simple art-historical lines." - Leonardo Online (1 February 2014)