The Photograph as Contemporary Art, by Charlotte Cotton: #BookReview.

248 pages

Photography Criticism & Essays/Photography Reference/Digital Art.

This is an examination of photography employed as a contemporary art medium as things stood approaching 2009 (there’s an updated version from Aug 2020). There has been an ongoing discussion about the validity of photography as a means of such self-expression. Hopefully, that argument has long been won. There can be no doubt many photographs are considered works of art as opposed to the ‘record’ shots the medium was previously restricted to by the art world. Of course, in the days of the instant camera and, more recently, with advances in digital cameras and software, the whole world of photography, along with writing, and to some degree, music, has become infected with the ‘I can easy do that’ attitude held by many amateurs. That’s not to say many non-professionals lack talent, but it’s undeniable that many people believe ownership of a camera makes them a photographer or even a photographic artist, in the same way possession of a computer with keyboard apparently gifts many barely literate individuals with the title of ‘writer’, the ownership of a guitar makes them a musician. It’s wonderful that people try their hand at new skills, but I’d hope they would serve some form of unofficial apprenticeship and learn the necessary skills before imposing their efforts on the public. Rant over.

The book contains the esoteric language beloved of the contemporary art world. It’s almost as if the sector wishes to exclude ordinary humans from their conversations. I accept some specialist terminology as essential, but overuse of such language can be obstructive to many readers.

The photographic content ranges from the frankly banal through to the beautiful and inspiring. There are 248 pages of text and, I guess, well over that number of photographs, some of which are rather too small to be of value. Most, however, illustrate the various points made by the author.

The book is divided into eight chapters as follows: If This Is Art, Once Upon a Time, Deadpan, Something and Nothing, Intimate Life, Moments in History, Revived and Remade, and Physical and Material. Each section deals with the type of pictures that can be placed under such headings. Over 200 photographers are displayed here, most of whom I’d not come across until I read the book. Many of them also work in art with other media as well, using photography as only one means of self-expression.

Talking with a young woman who’d recently finished a degree course in photography and been required to read this book as part of that course, I asked for her opinion and received the dismissive reply ‘It’s bollocks!’, which I can understand. However, I did find the book instructive in various ways regarding the motivation for certain photographers, and the influences and ambitions that lay behind some of the photographs contained in the book. It is what it says on the cover; a comprehensive review of the photograph as contemporary art, and I’m glad I’ve read it and been introduced to a wide group of photographic artists I might otherwise never have encountered.

For those deeply interested in the topic, I’ve added a comprehensive list of the featured artists on my personal post of this review, as there are too many to include in a normal review.


[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]

For the benefit of my visitors here, I’ve listed the featured photographers below, with links to sites bearing more of their images, so those curious enough to investigate further into this world can do so with relative ease. This took quite a time, as you can imagine, with 200 links to collect. Enjoy!

Photographers appearing in ‘The Photograph as Contemporary Art’.

The Daily Nice

Alec Soth

William Eggleston

Stephen Shore

Bernd & Hilla Becher

Seydou Keita

David Goldblatt

Ralph Eugene Meatyard

Philip-Lorca diCorcia

Alfred Stieglitz

Sophie Calle

Zhang Huan

Rong Rong

Joseph Beuys

Oleg Kulik

Melanie Manchot

Jeanne Dunning

Erwin Wurm

Tatsumi Orimoto

Gillian Wearing

Bettina von Zwehl

Shizuka Yokomizo

Hellen van Meene

Ni Haifeng

Kenneth Lum

Roy Villevoye

Nina Katchadourian

Wim Delvoye

David Shrigley

Sarah Lucas

Annika von Hausswolff

Mona Hatoum

Georges Rousse

David Spero

Tim Davis

Olga Chernysheva

Rachel Harrison

Roni Horn

Jeff Wall

Teresa Hubbard & Alexander Birchler

Sam Taylor-Wood

Tom Hunter

Yinka Shonibare

Sarah Dobai

Liza May Post

Sharon Lockhart

Frances Kearney

Hannah Starkey

Justine Kurland

Sarah Jones

Sergey Bratkov

Wendy McMurdo

Deborah Mesa-Pelly

Anna Gaskell

Inez van Lamsweerde & Vinoodh Matadin

Mariko Mori

Gregory Crewdson

Charlie White

Izima Kaoru

Christopher Stewart

Katharina Bosse

Miriam Backstrom

Miles Coolidge

Thomas Demand

Anne Hardy

James Casebere

Rut Blees Luxemburg

Desiree Dolron

Hannah Collins

Celine van Balen

Andreas Gursky

Walter Niedermayr

Bridget Smith

Ed Burtynsky

Takashi Homma

Lewis Baltz

Jacqueline Hassink

Candida Hofer

Naoya Hatakeyama

Axel Hutte

Dan Holdsworth

Richard Misrach

Thomas Struth

John Riddy

Gabriele Basilico

Simone Nieweg

Yoshiko Seino

Gerhard Stromberg

Jem Southam

Boo Moon

Clare Richardson

Lukas Jasansky & Martin Polak

Thomas Ruff

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Joel Sternfeld

Jitka Hanzlova

Mette Tronvoll

Albrecht Tubke

Rineke Dijkstra

Peter Fischli & David Weiss

Gabriel Orozco

Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Richard Wentworth

Jason Evans

Nigel Shafran

Jennifer Bolande

Jean-Marc Bustamante

Wim Wenders

Anthony Hernandez

Tracey Baran

Peter Fraser

Manfred Willmann

Roe Ethridge

Wolfgang Tillmans

James Welling

Laura Letinsky

Uta Barth

Sabine Hornig

Nan Goldin

Nobuyoshi Araki

Larry Clark

Juergen Teller

Corinne Day

Jack Pierson

Richard Billingham

Nick Waplington

Anna Fox

Ryan McGinley


Yang Yong

Alessandra Sanguinetti

Annelies Strba

Elinor Carucci

Ruth Erdt

Tina Barney

Larry Sultan

Mitch Epstein

Colin Gray

Elina Brotherus

Breda Beban

Sophie Ristelhueber

Willie Doherty

Zarina Bhimji

Anthony Haughey

Ori Gersht

Paul Seawright

Simon Norfolk

Fazal Sheikh

Chan Chao

Zwelethu Mthethwa

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin

Deirdre O’Callaghan

Trine Sondergaard

Dinu Li

Margareta Klingberg

Allan Sekula

Paul Graham

Martin Parr

Luc Delahaye

Ziyah Gafic

Andrea Robbins & Max Becher

Shirana Shahbazi

Esko Mannikko

Roger Ballen

Boris Mikhailov

Vik Muniz

Cindy Sherman

Yasumasa Morimura

Nikki S. Lee

Trish Morrissey

Gillian Wearing

Jemima Stehli

Zoe Leonard & Cheryl Dunye

Collier Schorr

Joan Fontcuberta

Aleksandra Mir

Tracey Moffat

Cornelia Parker

Vera Lutter

Susan Derges

Adam Fuss

John Divola

Richard Prince

Hans-Peter Feldmann

Tacita Dean

Joachim Schmid

Susan Lipper

Marketa Othova

Torbjorn Rodland

Katy Grannan

Vibeke Tandberg

Florian Maier-Aichen

Sherrie Levine

Christopher Williams

Sara VanDerBeek

Lyle Ashton Harris

Isa Genzken

Michael Queenland

Arthur Ou

Walead Beshty

An-My Le

Liz Deschenes

Eileen Quinlan

Carter Mull

Ed Ruscha

Sharon Ya’ari

Rinko Kawauchi

Tim Barber

Jason Evans

4 thoughts on “The Photograph as Contemporary Art, by Charlotte Cotton: #BookReview.

    1. I can’t blame you for not attempting the entire list, Mick. It took me a fair amount of time just to compile it, and I hoped it would make a useful resource for others to dip into. I agree about Stieglitz, by the way.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I agree with your rant. This happens a lot (or the reverse where you need a BA in order to type a letter). Often, the idea of what constitutes qualifications is non-sensical: none at all or far too much.

    Liked by 2 people

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