This book covers a wide range of topics related with Photography from different perspectives: cultural, political, anthropological… The book is a compendium of six essays written by different authors (Liz Wells, Derrick Price, Patricia Holland, Michelle Henning and Anandi Ramamurthy and focusing each one in a specific questions, such documentary photography, vernacular photography, the human body, advertising and commodity photography or photography as art.I read the fifth edition (2015) of the book originally edited in 1996, which was reviewed to include recent changes in photographic practice (internet, Flickr, mobile photography, etc).
Each chapter covers in great detail the chosen subject, including an introduction to explain the historical and current situation, and exploring the key points of debate, as well a good number of examples. A case study brings the opportunity to explore in detail the different approaches. All the material contained in this book is a good starting point for further research, so it include a lot of references from other books and specialized magazines.
I found very useful the chapter devoted to documentary photography, in particular the case study about “Migrant Mother” by Dorothea Lange that taught me how to read a photography, understanding the historical, political and cultural context in which it was created.
The chapter about Human Body offers a valuable information to understand modernist and post-modernist author who use the own body as a way of expressing themselves.
Personal and popular photography is also covered in great detail in chapter three, and it’s interesting to read the historical evolution of the medium, and how photography gradually became an essential part of our lives.
The last chapter of the book, about photography as art, was very ardous to read, mainly because of the arguments and debates included, that are still slightly out of my reach.
Definitely, an essential and recommended book that surely I will have to check in the future as starting point for further investigation.
Wells, L. (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th edition). Routledge