Reframing Photography

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

The Reframing Photography book redefines photographic practice as actions — of vision, light and shadow, and reproduction — that can be understood through media-centric practices as well as through other fields, disciplines, and exploits. Rather than isolating photography from other practices, we can understand — for example — mechanical reproduction as a relative of genetic cloning in order to shed light on the complexities of duplication and reveal larger cultural concerns about authenticity and originality.

This book is part theory, part practice; ideas co-exist alongside tools and processes, without hierarchy. We upend the traditional model ­— that a book about photography must begin with camera controls and lighting techniques, and end with analog or digital processing and printing — and broaden the scope of photographic practice across time periods, genres, histories, and disciplines.

As example, the first essay is a tour through ideas about VISION, …

from active and passive approaches to vision and recording; viewing mechanisms (sea creatures, humans, and cameras); Ann Hamilton’s mouth cameras; a brief history of photographic clarity and fuzz; Uta Barth’s photographs of a peripheral subject; the Ganzfeld; Oliver Sacks’s study of a man who regained sense of sight; Gestalt theory; John Baldessari and Garry Winogrand’s broken rules of composition; defining space through linear perspective; architectural, framed, televised, web-based windows, and armored cars in Iraq as frames for a view; Tim Hawkinson’s floating eye; influencing visual perception through landscape design; the fear of open space in environment and image; sequential perception in Asian landscapes and representation; the camera obscura as observatory; Janet Cardiff’s walks; Franz John’s military bunker camera obscuras; nineteenth-century optical toys and Liza McConnell’s contemporary viewer-operated contraptions; the New Vision’s techniques that attempt to make strange the familiar; mountain-climbing, space travel, and other visual feats; Paul Ramirez Jonas’s kite cameras; Google Earth; viewing attention and Internet strategies; and more…

The essay on REPRODUCTIVE PROCESSES explores ….

the photograph as physical imprint; Walter Benjamin and the aura of the work of art; Otsuka Museum of Art’s full scale ceramic/photographic reproductions of iconic Western paintings;  genetic and photographic copies; Sherrie Levine’s photographs of photographs; the implications of cloning; Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s stacks of prints; cartes-de-visite and facebook friends; a brief survey of printing technologies; advertising and the industrial revolution; transmitting photographs for mass media; picture magazines to grass root and cell phone journalism; material waste and collage; the Futurists, Dadaists, Fluxists, Romare Bearden, Betty Hahn, and other collagists; reproduction and Pop Art; a legal guide to photographing; Google’s Street View; Shizuka Yokomizo’s photographs of strangers; the ethics of reproduction in war photography; photography as an act of power; Native American views on photography; re-photographic survey projects; rephotography as a way to deal with trauma; Civil War reenactments as photographic acts; and more…

Other essays look at LIGHT + SHADOW and SERIES + SEQUENCE.



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.