New Directions in Photography
The advances in digital imaging have captured the imagination of professional photographers as well as the great masses of amateur snappers active across the world. And they are fighting to be heard and seen against this tsunami of images and DIY Photoshop acrobatics.
Text: Mike von Joel | Images: Various
Any attempt to filter this cacophony of visual noise is more than welcome. Susan Bright, a well known face in London photo circles from her time at the National Portrait Gallery, has revised and updated her 2006 Art Photography Now (Thames & Hudson) survey of artists who might be described as taking the route conceptual.
Bright takes this opportunity to infiltrate a large percentage of women photographers into the review of eighty artists working with the medium. Some are as expected: Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin and Candida Höfer, but she introduces some evolving talents like Hannah Starkey, Laura Letinsky and Tina Barney. And there is a perceptible feminist undercurrent to this book, which in no way detracts from Susan Bright’s overall premise, which clearly buys in to the current fashion in image-making.
Throughout, Bright adopts the very effective template of a contextualising introduction followed by an ‘in-their-own-words’ artists’ commentary for each entry. The whole book is divided into seven disciplines within contemporary photography: Portrait, Landscape, Narrative, Object, Fashion, Document and the City. Bright offers an erudite introduction to the whole and forewords to each section, which go some way to elucidate a very elusive determination of the role of photography as a fine art.
What lets Art Photography Now down is the appalling design, a very rare occurrence at Thames & Hudson. Pretentious, oversize serif type and negative leading (an affectation seenin ID Magazine over 20 years ago) battle the images for attention on each page; and a poor column width/point size/leading design on Bright’s introduction and foreword texts only serve to irritate the reader. An unnecessary dissimulation to some very interesting photographs.