What Photography Is

James Elkins

In What Photography Is, James Elkins examines the strange and alluring power of photography in the same provocative and evocative manner as he explored oil painting in his best-selling What Painting Is. In the course of an extended imaginary dialogue with Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida, Elkins argues that photography is also about meaninglessness--its apparently endless capacity to show us things that we do not want or need to see--and also about pain, because extremely powerful images can sear permanently into our consciousness. Extensively illustrated with a surprising range of images, the book demonstrates that what makes photography uniquely powerful is its ability to express the difficulty--physical, psychological, emotional, and aesthetic--of the act of seeing.

James Elkins is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is the author of Pictures and Tears, How to Use Your Eyes, Stories of Art, Visual Studies, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles, Our Beautiful, Dry, and Distant Texts, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, and Master Narratives and Their Discontents, all published by Routledge.

He is editor of Art History Versus Aesthetics, Photography Theory, Landscape Theory, The State of Art Criticism, and Visual Literacy, all published by Routledge.

What Photography Is
James Elkins
Taylor & Francis Ltd
2011
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