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Why Photography Matters

3.19  ·  Rating Details ·  37 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
Photography matters, writes Jerry Thompson, because of how it works -- not only as an artistic medium but also as a way of knowing. With this provocative observation, Thompson begins a wide-ranging and lucid meditation on why photography is unique among the picture-making arts. He constructs an argument that moves with natural logic from Thomas Pynchon (and why we read him ...more
Hardcover, 104 pages
Published August 23rd 2013 by Mit Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Joshua
Jan 09, 2014 Joshua rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2014
Jerry Thompson's short [under 100 pages] meditation on various philosophical aspects of photography often reads too dry and academic for my particular tastes. I actually would have preferred MORE talk about photographers, photography and the art of taking photographs instead of the numerous attempts by Thompson to link some strand of artistic philosophy to the act of taking a picture. Also, as a former assistant of Walker Evans, this is very heavy on him [a photographer I happen to admire ...more
Christine
Aug 09, 2015 Christine rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Photographers who are allergic to "theory"

"Through seeing how things look in pictures, a photographer comes to understand not only how a thing means, when its image becomes part of a picture; but also what the things means, in the context of the world in which it is shown." (41)

Why Photography Matters is a finely crafted essay, of the kind that we were most strongly encouraged to write as college students; every word is well chosen, the pacing is even, the tone moderate, the terminology clearly explained, the rhetorical devices clearly
...more
Mark
Aug 12, 2014 Mark rated it did not like it
A load of academic tripe focusing solely on fine art photography. I had hoped the reviews I saw were simply folks who did not know how to wade through academic writing. Maybe I was right but they were not wrong.

For the record, I made it halfway. Wanted to give up about 15-20% in but kept at it.

80% of the text is utter bullshit. 20% makes sense but then he ruins it by tying it back in to the other crap. And he writes of photographers as if he has never been one. It is all thought experiment BS. H
...more
Patrick
Jul 09, 2015 Patrick rated it really liked it
Shelves: photography
This is a clever, irreverent book which also has a pretty good point to make. Almost all of the books I've read so far go out of their way to break the connection between photographs and reality (a photo is two dimensional, the camera's vision is monocular, framing creates relationships that don't exist in the real world, color is either a chemical approximation or the 1s and 0s of a computer program, etc etc). Thompson takes the exact opposite view: photography is an epistemological medium ...more
Michelle
Sep 24, 2013 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: art-related
As far as the books I've read on Photography theory, this one has been the most relevant to the view of the photographer and what their work has to say. Thompson's references to various artists are unmemorable though, and there are many moments the author goes on unnecessarily long trying to validate his opinion. On the positive side, there are some revelations that stand out from the rest and are worth going back to. It was also nice to read theory from an artist's perspective for a change.
Deb
Mar 27, 2014 Deb rated it it was ok
This book was more of a wordy academic philosophy lecture. There was some food for thought, but that often got lost in his salad of verbosity. At 85 pages though it was a quick read.
Tracey
Feb 03, 2016 Tracey rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the connections to epistemology, especially as they focused on the importance of process, patience, & practice.
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Jerry L. Thompson is a working photographer who occasionally writes about photography. During the last three years of Walker Evans’s life he was Evans’s principal assistant and, for a time, printer of photographs. He lived with Evans off and on from late 1972 until Evans’s death in April 1975. From 1973 until 1980 he was a member of the faculty of Yale University. Thompson has also written The ...more
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