Optional Photography Class Readings

Photography History & Theory Notes

Optional Background Reading Material

Here's a link to a collection of links online about photography.

Below are some pdfs and hyperlinks for extra background reading on the subjects I teach. My classes may refer to these at any point. They are here for you to explore other ideas about photography. They are the kinds of reading that a full time fine art undergraduate, majoring in photography, would undertake in their 1st and 2nd years of study at University.

Some of these books are available at the either State Library of Victoria, or the RMIT Library. All would be available as inter-library loans.

Here's quick jump-to list for you, in no particular order.


Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin wrote several essays that examined the significance of Photography culturally. He was a German Jewish philosopher, cultural critic and essayist. An eclectic thinker, combining elements of German idealism, Romanticism, Western Marxism, and Jewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory, literary criticism, and historical materialism.

The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction is considered by many as his most important.

Published: by Schocken/Random House, ed. by Hannah Arendt;
Transcribed: by Andy Blunden 1998; proofed and corrected Feb. 2005.

A little history of photography.

Selected Writings Volume 2 1927-1934
Translated by Rodney Livingstone and Others
Edited by Michael W. Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith
THE BELKNAP PRESS OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England 1999
ISBN-13: 978-0674945869

Liz Wells

Photography: A Critical Introduction, 5th Edition*

A collection of essays that explores photographic history. We have a copy of the book in our library see me if you are interested in particular chapters that may affect your research.

* I also have a pdf version if you would like.


David Campany

A history of Photography?
Is this even possible David Campany asks in his introduction to the book, Photography the whole story.

'Photography The Whole Story'
pg 6-15 Editor Juliet Hacking,
Pub Thames & Hudson, London. 2012,
ISBN 978-0-500-29045-3


Victor Burgin

Looking at Photographs by Victor Burgin
Burgin argues that the act of making an image, with a camera, is a political one, as is the act of looking at a photograph.
Burgin V. Ed. Thinking Photography, 1982 Macmillan Education, London.
ISBN 0333271955


Andreas Feininger

Feininger on Image making and Photography 
Andreas Feininger, a well known European Photographer of the 60's talks about the importance of seeing, photographically as opposed to seeing with your eyes. This is in itself a contentious issue in the modern art world.
Feininger A, Photographic seeing. How to train your photo-eye. 1973,
Thames & Hudson, London
ISBN 0500540195


William J Mitchell

The Reconfigured Eye [Chapter 1]
The Reconfigured Eye [Chapter 2]
Mitchell's text in the opening chapters of his book, looks at what a digital photograph maybe, it also paints a broad brush on the somewhat brief history of Digital Photography
Mitchell. William J. The reconfigured eye. Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era.
MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England, 1994
ISBN 978026263100



229 Great Photographers
This is a PDF I created using free tools available to me via Wikipedia,it is a whopping 73mb though. It has no basis in academic convention either and is simply a list of photographers I sourced using my own knowledge and books. I am happy to distribute this list in class.


As part of the photo-book class.

A glossary of photographic terms.

A potted History of books, and nomenclature

Photography Encyclopedia.

Exposing the 17th Century Camera Obscura Another essay that questions 17th Century painting's geniuses and the impact of mirrors and lenses on the creation of painting of the time.


Fred Ritchin

Chapter 8 of After Photography, by Fred Ritchin.
Ritchin argues that Photography is at a critical point in its development, due in part to the integration of many computer and web based technologies that impact on how photography is perceived, shared and distributed.
Ritchin F. After Photography
2009, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, New York,
ISBN 978039305024


Susan Sontag

No course in photography is complete without reference to Susan Sontag's infamous collection of essays, 'On Photography'.

Plato's Cave.
This essay explores the differences between, perceiving the world through a photograph compared to older means of visual understanding.
Sontag. S. On Photography
1979, Penguin Books, London.
ISBN 0140053972

America, Seen Darkly, through Photographs.
Sontag's Essays on Photography were revolutionary for their time, they asked questions of photography not then asked, even more so because they were written by a person with no formal training in Photography. This essay argues that photographs are not benign objects that reflect their outside world but reveal a darker side of the photographer.
Sontag. S. On Photography
1979, Penguin Books, London.
ISBN 0140053972


Ian Jeffrey

Ian Jeffry's final chapter of his history of photography, written in the early 80's, argues that photography, from the 1950's onwards, has begun to look inward and be more self-referential and introspective
Jeffrey. I. Photography a Concise History,
1981, Thames & Hudson, London
ISBN 0500201870


Gerry Badger

Gerry Badger explores Joshua Thomas Cooper's work, and in the process meanders from Zen, Transcendental Photography, to Modernism, and large projects, and the state of the idea of the fine print in this digital era.
Badger, Gerry, The Pleasures of Good Photographs,
2010, pub. Aperture, New York,
ISBN 978-1-58711-139-3

It's Art, but is it Photography? Some thoughts on Photoshop. 
Gerry Badger asks the perfect question, "when is photography not photography?". He also ruminates on the importance of the art market, and the importance of digital editing.
Pg 234 The pleasure of good photographs
Pub. Aperture,
New York, New York, ISBN 978-159711-139-3


Steven Edwards

Photography: A Very Short Introduction
Steven Edwards, in his Photography A Very Short Introduction, points out the misconceptions about photography's alleged veracity and in his after-word on digital photography, ponders the future uses of the medium and whether digital photographs are even 'photography'.
Pub. Oxford University Press,
USA (November 20, 2006)
ISBN-10: 0192801643


Robert Adams

Robert Adams asks what makes art new? His answer is both eloquent and simple. In short we can all do it.

Landscape and truth? What makes Landscape pictures useful and is there any truth in them?

Landscape; Hope, Photography
Robert Adams' argues very eloquently for the idea that idealising nature through the unattainable idea of a pristine environment can be damaging to the cause. He address 3 photographers from the history of the medium to argue his point.

Robert Adams Beauty in Photography Essays in Defense of Traditional Values.
Pub Aperture 1981
ISBN 0-89381-080-0

John Berger

The White Bird.[5MB]
From the collection of Essays entitled, The Sense of Sight.
John Berger suggests that for an object of art to resonate deeply across, all nationalities, it should ideally have several characteristics. This is the goal of good art. To speak personally but as well as to the rest of humanity.
Vintage Books, New York 1993 ISBN, 0-679-73722-7

Geoffrey Batchen

Geoffrey Batchen is this century's most profound thinker when it comes to photography and history. Each Wild Idea, a collection of nine essays makes several points about how photography is engaging and challenging. The book is in the library. See me to discuss which chapters may affect your own research.

Other books of his worth reading are, in no particular, order:-


Peter Galassi

Before Photography

Peter Galassi examines the influence between painting and photography, given the existence of mirrors and lenses so much earlier than the when photography was invented.

A page by Stuart Murdoch 2019 Last update? 07.08.2021

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