Author(s): David Campany
Is it possible to describe a photograph without interpreting it? Can a viewer ever be as dispassionate as the mechanism of a camera? And how far can a photographer's intentions determine responses to their image, decades after it was made? These are just a few questions that David Campany eloquently addresses in On Photographs. In the tradition of Susan Sontag and John Berger, Campany explores the tensions inherent to the photographic medium - between art and document, chance and intention, permanence and malleability of meaning - as well as the significance of authorship, performance, time and reproduction. On Photographs is destined to become an instant classic of photography writing. Rejecting the conventions of chronology and the heightened status afforded to 'classics' in traditional accounts of the history of the medium, Campany's selection of photographs is an expertly curated and personal one - mixing fine art prints, film stills, documentary photographs, fashion editorials and advertisements. In this playful new take on the history of photography, anonymous photographers stand alongside photography pioneers, 20th-century talents and contemporary practitioners. Each photograph is accompanied by Campany's highly readable commentary. Putting the sacred status of authorship to one side, he strives to guide the reader in their own interpretation and understanding of the image itself. In a visual culture in which we have become accustomed to not looking, Campany helps us see, in what is both an accessible introduction for newcomers and a must-have for photography aficionados.