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Photography

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Being in the World

This book offers the first career retrospective of Brian Weil (1954–1996), an artist whose photographs pushed viewers into a deeply unsteadying engagement with insular communities and subcultures. A younger contemporary of such participant-observer photographers as Larry Clark and Nan Goldin, Weil took photographs that foreground the complex relationships between photographer and subject, and between photograph and viewer.

Weil was a member of ACT UP and the founder of New York City’s first needle exchange, and his photographs became inextricably tied to his activist practice. His late work, an extensive series of portraits whose subjects bear witness to the emerging AIDS pandemic, is included here, along with selections from several earlier and concurrent projects: Sex (underground sex and bondage participants), Miami Crime (homicide scenes investigated by the Miami Police Department), Hasidim (populations of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn and the Catskills), and an extensive video project with members of nascent transgender support groups.

This book commemorates a 2013 exhibition of Brian Weil’s work at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and includes in-depth essays on Weil by Stamatina Gregory and Jennifer Burris, an interiew with the artist by Claudia Gould, and reprints of archival edited notes discussing crime and photographic evidence based on a series of interviews conducted by Sylvère Lotringer with filmmaker George Diaz in the 1980s.

The Lives of Images

Snapshots capture everyday occasions. Taken by amateur photographers with simple point-and-shoot cameras, snapshots often commemorate something that is private and personal; yet they also reflect widely held cultural conventions. The poses may be formulaic, but a photograph of loved ones can evoke a deep affective response. In Snapshot Photography, Catherine Zuromskis examines the development of a form of visual expression that is both public and private.

Scholars of art and culture tend to discount snapshot photography; it is too ubiquitous, too unremarkable, too personal. Zuromskis argues for its significance. Snapshot photographers, she contends, are not so much creating spontaneous records of their lives as they are participating in a prescriptive cultural ritual. A snapshot is not only a record of interpersonal intimacy but also a means of linking private symbols of domestic harmony to public ideas of social conformity.

Through a series of case studies, Zuromskis explores the social life of snapshot photography in the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century. She examines the treatment of snapshot photography in the 2002 film One Hour Photo and in the television crime drama Law and Order: Special Victims Unit; the growing interest of collectors and museum curators in “vintage” snapshots; and the “snapshot aesthetic” of Andy Warhol and Nan Goldin. She finds that Warhol’s photographs of the Factory community and Goldin’s intense and intimate photographs of friends and family use the conventions of the snapshot to celebrate an alternate version of “family values.”

In today’s digital age, snapshot photography has become even more ubiquitous and ephemeral—and, significantly, more public. But buried within snapshot photography’s mythic construction, Zuromskis argues, is a site of democratic possibility.

Countryside, Traditions, and Cultural Spaces

Just a few kilometers from the glittering skylines of Shanghai and Beijing, we encounter a vast countryside, an often forgotten and seemingly limitless landscape stretching far beyond the outskirts of the cities. Following traces of old trade routes, once-flourishing marketplaces, abandoned country estates, decrepit model villages, and the sites of mystic rituals, the authors of this book spent seven years exploring, photographing, and observing the vast interior of China, where the majority of Chinese people live in ways virtually unchanged for centuries.

China’s Vanishing Worlds is an impressive documentation in images and text of modernization’s effect on traditional ways of life, and a sympathetic portrait of lives burdened by hardship but blessed by simplicity and tranquility. The scars of China’s recent history and the decay of centuries-old traditions are made visible in this volume, but so is the lure and promise of technology and another life for young people. In the next twenty years, an estimated 280 million Chinese villagers will become city dwellers, leaving their ancestral homes in search of urban jobs and opportunities.

In striking and evocative color photographs, we see picturesque villages set against a background of rolling hills, planned centuries ago according to the principles of feng shui; a restaurant with bright pink resin chairs and a wide-screen television; traditional buildings preserved by the accident of poverty and isolation; ramshackle rooms decorated with portraits of Chairman Mao; backpack-wearing children walking to school; festivals with elaborately costumed performers; old men playing cards; buyers and sellers at open-air markets.

China’s Vanishing Worlds offers readers a rare opportunity to glimpse China as it once was, and as it will soon no longer be.

Photography matters, writes Jerry Thompson, because of how it works—not only as an artistic medium but also as a way of knowing. It matters because how we understand what photography is and how it works tell us something about how we understand anything. With these provocative observations, Thompson begins a wide-ranging and lucid meditation on why photography is unique among the picture-making arts.

Thompson, a working photographer for forty years, constructs an argument that moves with natural logic from Thomas Pynchon (and why we read him for his vision and not his command of miscellaneous facts) to Jonathan Swift to Plato to Emily Dickinson (who wrote “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant”) to detailed readings of photographs by Eugène Atget, Garry Winogrand, Marcia Due, Walker Evans, and Robert Frank. He questions Susan Sontag’s assertion in On Photography that “nobody” can any longer imagine literate, authoritative, or transcendent photographs. He considers the money-fueled expansion of the market for photography, and he compares ambitious “meant-for-the-wall” photographs with smaller, quieter works. Forcefully and persuasively, Thompson argues for photography as a medium concerned with understanding the world we live in—a medium whose business is not constructing fantasies pleasing to the eye or imagination but describing the world in the toughest and deepest way.

The extraordinary and adorable antics of penguins attract thousands of tourists every year to remote and icy locations. Penguins never fail to make people smile; wild penguins waddle up and inspect us as if we were just another kind of flightless creature walking on two legs. In this book, the vibrant world of penguins is shown in all its glory by David Tipling, who has trekked to beautiful and faraway locations to capture these birds in their natural habitats.

Tipling’s gorgeous full-color images catch moments rarely witnessed by humans. He shows us an Adélie penguin speeding through water at 25 mph; a line of King penguins in a snow squall; doting Emperor penguin parents with their fluffy chick; a young penguin nuzzling a camera’s telescopic lens; a Rockhopper penguin hopping from rock to rock; a large social gathering of Chinstrap penguins; the striking plumage and courtship display of a male Macaroni penguin; and much more. The book features 139 striking photographs of these unique birds taken in the wild. In the accompanying text, Tipling profiles all of the world’s seventeen penguin species, and chapters cover every aspect of their lives and behavior, including migration, defending against predators, and life in extreme climates.

This stunning book is a celebration of penguins that is sure to captivate any bird lover, wildlife enthusiast, or photography buff.

Triangle

In Sanja Iveković’s Triangle (Trokut, 1979), four black-and-white photographs and written text capture an eighteen-minute performance from May 10, 1979. On that date, a motorcade carrying Josip Broz Tito, then president of Yugoslavia, drove through the streets of downtown Zagreb. As the President’s limousine passed beneath her apartment, Ivokevic began simulating masturbation on her balcony. Although she could not be seen from the street, she knew that the surveillance teams on the roofs of neighboring buildings would detect her presence. Within minutes, a policeman appeared at her door ordered her inside. Not only did Ivekovic's action expose government repression and call attention to the rights of women, it also called attention to the relationship of gender to power, and to the particular experience of political dissidence under communist rule in Eastern Europe. Triangle is considered one of Iveković’s key works and yet, despite Iveković’s stature as one of the leading artists of the former Yugoslavia, it has received little direct attention. With this book, Ruth Noack offers the first sustained examination of Iveković’s widely exhibited, now canonical artwork.

After a detailed analysis of the work's formal qualities, Noack considers its position in the context of artistic production and political history in socialist Yugoslavia. She looks closely at the genesis of the performance and its documentation as a work of art, and relates the making of the work and the politics of canon-making to issues pertaining to the former East-West divide. She discusses the artistic language and meaning-making in relation to conceptualism and performance and to the position of women in Tito’s Yugoslavia and in society at large, and investigates the notion that Iveković’s work of this period is participating in citizenship, shifting the focus from the artist’s subversive act to her capacity to shape the terms through which we order our world.

Referencing Various Small Books by Ed Ruscha

In the 1960s and 1970s, the artist Ed Ruscha created a series of small photo-conceptual artist’s books, among them Twentysix Gas Stations, Various Small Fires, Every Building on the Sunset Strip, Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Real Estate Opportunities, and A Few Palm Trees. Featuring mundane subjects photographed prosaically, with idiosyncratically deadpan titles, these “small books” were sought after, collected, and loved by Ruscha’s fans and fellow artists. Over the past thirty years, close to 100 other small books that appropriated or paid homage to Ruscha’s have appeared throughout the world. This book collects ninety-one of these projects, showcasing the cover and sample layouts from each along with a description of the work. It also includes selections from Ruscha’s books and an appendix listing all known Ruscha book tributes.
    
These small books revisit, imitate, honor, and parody Ruscha in form, content, and title. Some rephotograph his subjects: Thirtyfour Parking Lots, Forty Years Later. Some offer a humorous variation: Various Unbaked Cookies (which concludes, as did Ruscha’s Various Small Fires, with a glass of milk), Twentynine Palms (twenty-nine photographs of palm-readers’ signs). Some say something different: None of the Buildings on Sunset Strip. Some reach for a connection with Ruscha himself: 17 Parked Cars in Various Parking Lots Along Pacific Coast Highway Between My House and Ed Ruscha’s.
    
With his books, Ruscha expanded the artist’s field of permissible subjects, approaches, and methods. With VARIOUS SMALL BOOKS, various artists pay tribute to Ed Ruscha and extend the legacy of his books.

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After a long period in eclipse, documentary has undergone a marked revival in recent art. This has been spurred by two phenomena: the exhibition of photographic and video work on political issues at Documenta and numerous biennials; and increasing attention to issues of injustice, violence, and trauma in the war zones of the endemically conflict-ridden twenty-first century. The renewed attention to photography and video in the gallery and museum world has helped make documentary one of the most prominent modes of art-making today. Unsurprisingly, this development has been accompanied by a rich strain of theoretical and historical writing on documentary.
    
This anthology provides a much-needed contextual grounding for documentary art. It explores the roots of documentary in modernism and its critique under postmodernism; surveys current theoretical thinking about documentary; and examines a wide range of work by artists within, around, or against documentary through their own writings and interviews.

Artists surveyed include:
Kutlug Ataman, Ursula Biemann, Hasan Elahi, Harun Farocki, Omer Fast, Joan Fontcuberta, Regina José Galindo, David Goldblatt, Craigie Horsfield, Alfredo Jaar, Emily Jacir, Lisa F. Jackson, Philip Jones Griffiths, An-My Le, Renzo Martens, Boris Mikhailov, Daido Moriyama, Walid Raad, Michael Schmidt, Sean Snyder

Writers include:
James Agee, Ariella Azoulay, Walter Benjamin, Adam Broomberg, Judith Butler, Oliver Chanarin, Georges Didi-Huberman, John Grierson, David Levi Strauss, Elizabeth McCausland, Carl Plantinga, Jacques Rancière, Martha Rosler, Jean-Paul Sartre, Allan Sekula, W. Eugene Smith, Susan Sontag, Hito Steyerl, Trinh T. Minh-ha

In this groundbreaking work, Ariella Azoulay provides a compelling rethinking of the political and ethical status of photography. In her extraordinary account of the "civil contract" of photography, she thoroughly revises our understanding of the power relations that sustain and make possible photographic meanings. Photography, she insists, must be thought of and understood in its inseparability from the many catastrophes of recent history.

Azoulay argues that photography is a particular set of relations between individuals to the power that governs them, and, at the same time, a form of relations among equal individuals that constrains this power. Her book shows how anyone, even a stateless person, who addresses others through photographs or occupies the position of a photograph's addressee, is or can become a citizen in the citizenry of photography. The civil contract of photography enables him or her to share with others the claim made or addressed by the photograph.

But the crucial arguments of the book concern two groups whose vulnerability and flawed citizenship have been rendered invisible due to their state of exception: the Palestinian noncitizens of Israel and women in Western societies. What they share is an exposure to injuries of various kinds and the impossibility of photographic statements of their plight from ever becoming claims of emergency and calls for protection. Thus one of her leading questions is the following: Under what legal, political or cultural conditions does it become possible to see and to show disaster that befalls those flawed citizens in states of exception?

The book brilliantly examines key texts in the history of modern citizenship, such as the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, together with relevant works by Giorgio Agamben, Hannah Arendt, Olympe de Gouges, and Jean-François Lyotard; it rigorously analyzes Israeli photographs of violent episodes in the Occupied Territories—work by Miki Kratsman, Michal Heiman, and Aïm Deüelle Lüski—and it interpretively engages photographs of women from those of Muybridge to recent images from Abu Ghraib prison. At the same time Azoulay provides new critical perspectives on well-known texts such as Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others and Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida.

The Civil Contract of Photography is an essential work for anyone seeking to understand the disasters of recent history and the consequences of how these events and their victims have been represented. Azoulay charts new intellectual and political pathways in this unprecedented exploration of the visual field of catastrophe, injustice, and suffering in our time.

What if Jacques Lacan--the brilliant and eccentric Parisian psychoanalyst--had worked as a police detective, applying his theories to solve crimes? This may conjure up a mental film clip starring Peter Sellers in a trench coat, but in Lacan at the Scene, Henry Bond makes a serious and provocative claim: that apparently impenetrable events of violent death can be more effectively unraveled with Lacan’s theory of psychoanalysis than with elaborate, technologically advanced forensic tools. Bond’s exposition on murder expands and develops a resolutely Žižekian approach. Seeking out radical and unexpected readings, Bond unpacks his material utilizing Lacan’s neurosis-psychosis-perversion grid.

Bond places Lacan at the crime scene and builds his argument through a series of archival crime scene photographs from the 1950s--the period when Lacan was developing his influential theories. It is not the horror of the ravished and mutilated corpses that draws his attention; instead, he interrogates seemingly minor details from the everyday, isolating and rephotographing what at first seems insignificant: a single high heeled shoe on a kitchen table, for example, or carefully folded clothes placed over a chair. From these mundane details he carefully builds a robust and comprehensive manual for Lacanian crime investigation that can stand beside the FBI’s standard-issue Crime Classification Manual.

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