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BOOK REVIEWS

BOOK REVIEWS Photography: The Whole Story Edited by Juliet Hacking Prestel Hardcover, 576 pages $34.95 For a crash course or for writing the course, Photography: The Whole Story is a solid, comprehensive resource that includes practically every reasonably famous image, placing them in historical, thematic, and technological context. The design is tight and functional, with most photographs accompanied by a “navigator” sidebar that highlights “focal points” in the image and gives a biographical sketch of the photographer. Arranged chronologically and clumped into sets like “Still Life” and “Picturing The World,” the sheer scale of the book—including everything from the first heliographs and Alphonse Bertillon’s mug shots through shots of the moon landing, Baghdad burning, and Kim Joon’s post-production photo-illustration—means that there’s no thoroughgoing narrative or thesis, just overlapping themes that give conceptually handy framing without too much prescriptive baggage. It’s a neat trick, and helped by focusing mainly on the images, a surprisingly rare thing in photo history survey texts. One particularly nice aspect is that Photography: The Whole Story takes an implicitly feminist approach throughout, from discussions of Ed Weston’s many muses to Man Ray’s “Ingres’ Violin” to discussions on the nude throughout photography. It’s a shame that a feminist perspective in a general survey photography text is worth noting, but by taking feminism as given in the same descriptive tone used for all of the writing, editor Hacking remedies a frequent shortcoming of generalist art history books in a way that furthers her goal of offering the whole story. For all that, Photography: The Whole Story would best be experienced as part of a course, rather than as a stand alone book; it’s a great resource for people who already know photography and need a quick reference, but the breadth precludes depth. For example, the Roger Fenton photograph “Valley of the Shadow of Death” is accompanied by text that alludes to Susan Sontag’s claim that Fenton staged the photograph, since debunked by Errol Morris. But with only approximately 400 words to place the photo in context and explain the process he used, getting the “whole story” just isn’t possible. The book is already nearly 600 pages, including index and glossary; fleshing it out would turn it into a cinder block, but a good prof could turn this book alone into a whole curriculum.

Possession, 1976, British Council Collection, London, UK © Victor Burgin; Courtesy Galerie Thomas Zander, Cologne

- JOSH STEICHMANN

American Society of Picture Professionals

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Issue 4, 2012: ASPP's The Picture Professional Magazine  

The American Society of Picture Professionals is pleased to present the digital version of our quarterly publication, sponsored by Corbis Im...

Issue 4, 2012: ASPP's The Picture Professional Magazine  

The American Society of Picture Professionals is pleased to present the digital version of our quarterly publication, sponsored by Corbis Im...