Photography and Its Violations | John Roberts

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Photography and Its Violations | John Roberts


Published by Columbia University Press, 2014.

230 x 160mm, hardcover, 232 pages

ISBN 9780231168182

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Theorists critique photography for 'objectifying' its subjects and manipulating appearance for the sake of art. In this bold counterargument, John Roberts recasts photography's violating powers and aesthetic technique as part of a complex 'social ontology' that exposes the hierarchies, divisions, and exclusions behind appearances. Photography must 'arrive unannounced' and 'get in the way of the world,' Roberts argues, committing to the truth-claims of the spectator over the self-interests and sensitivities of the subject. Yet even though the violating capacity of the photograph results from external power relations, the photographer is still faced with an ethical choice: whether to advance photography's truth-claims on the basis of these powers or to diminish or veil these powers to protect the integrity of the subject. Photography's acts of intrusion and destabilization constantly test the photographer at the point of production, in the darkroom, and at the computer, especially in our 24-hour digital image culture. Roberts's refunctioning of photography's place in the world is therefore critically game-changing, as it politically and theoretically restores the reputation of the art.

John Roberts is professor of art and aesthetics at the University of Wolverhampton and the author of The Art of Interruption: Realism, Photography, and the EverydayThe Intangibilities of Form: Skill and Deskilling in Art After the Readymade

Contents: Acknowledgments, Introduction, The Social Ontology of Photography: Part I. The Document, the Figural, and the Index 1. Photography and Its Truth-Event 2. The Political Form of Photography Today 3. 'Fragment, Experiment, Dissonant Prologue': Modernism, Realism, and the Photodocument 4. Two Models of Labor: Figurality and Nonfigurality in Recent Photography. Part II. Abstraction, Violation, and Empathy 5. Photography After the Photograph: Event, Archive, and the Nonsymbolic 6. Photography, Abstraction, and the Social Production of Space 7. Violence, Photography, and the Inhuman. Conclusion, Notes, Bibliography, Index.

I know of no other work in photographic history or theory which takes such a wide survey of well chosen examples in service of making profound and provocative sense of the whole field of photography. This book also successfully proposes a genuinely novel position from which to re-engage the most pressing, important, and persistent problems of photography. Tom Huhn, School of Visual Arts