Reframing Photography

Reframing Photography: Theory & Practice
By Rebekah Modrak. With Bill Anthes.
501 pp. Routledge, 2010.

The book Reframing Photography redefines photographic practice by considering expansive inquiries of theory, history and process used by many types of artists and disciplines. The book integrates theory and practice, so that history and theory co-exist alongside tools, materials and processes, without imposing a hierarchy. The traditional model ­— beginning with camera controls and lighting techniques, and ending with analog or digital processing and printing — is upended and extended to broaden photographic practice as we know it in contemporary art.

The book recognizes the act of seeing, shadow play, Internet-based media, projection, installation, image-integrated design, rubbings, disposable / pinhole cameras and light boxes, and sculptural work with photographs as photographic acts.

The four parts of the book represent concerns common to all photographic practice: Vision, Light/Shadow, Reproduction, and Editing, Presentation & Evaluation.

Each part contains two sections:

1. An essay exploring the topic from photographic and related fields. For example, Reproduction considers how photographic reproduction (negatives and positives and photographic restaging) relates to genetic cloning. Each essay introduces artists working with a diverse range of subject matter and processes. Artist profiles examine conceptual and technical choices, describe cultural implications and artistic influences and analyze how these concerns interrelate.

2. Practice-based sections consider photographic methods, such as the operation of the human eye, camera controls, sources of light and the manipulation of light’s path, image transfer processes, and the construction of flip books and other animation devices. All methods are illustrated with artists’ works that reveal the conceptual and technical challenges confronting their particular practice.

The artist Charles Ray describes the imaginative and resourceful work he created during his years as an undergraduate student without much money for materials. He’s skeptical that funding and access to equipment necessarily engenders better work. Reframing Photography adopts this spirit, taking care to balance methods involving expensive equipment with low-tech means; the book investigates photography by peering through tubes (isolating vision), making editions of charcoal rubbings, and constructing camera obscuras from cardboard boxes.


Regine Debatty, Book Review: Reframing Photography, We Make Money Not Art, July 2012.
… the content is literally mind-blowing …The texts are extremely rigorous and well-researched …. Another quality of the book is that it doesn’t abstract photography from its social context, discussing issues such as censorship in military operation, the place of photography in social networks like facebook, or comparing notions of originality and reproduction in photography to the same notions in genetics, etc.

Roberta Fallon, Book Review: Reframing Photography, The Art Blog, July 2012.
Reframing Photography, the 560-page encyclopedic book on the subject includes everything about photography and then some…. One of the great things about the book is its underlying premise — that everybody uses photography now, and that for some artists, photography is one, but not the only tool in their studio. The authors … understand that the future of fine art photography might look considerably different than a simple show of framed works hung on a wall. And because of that open interpretation of the field, the book embraces every possible use of the tool and discusses it with open mind.…

L. Scarth (Independent Scholar), Review: Reframing Photography, CHOICE, November 2011.

Ian Jones (Head of Photography, National Army Museum), Review: Understanding Photography, Cassone, June 2011.

Jan Baetens, Review: Reframing Photography: Theory and Practice, Leonardo On-lineDecember 1, 2010.