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16 Ways of Looking at a Photograph

Contemporary Theories

Claire Raymond

Publication Date - August 2019

ISBN: 9780190646233

248 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

A wide-ranging introduction to photographic theory, from its beginnings to today


Featuring an accessible and engaging writing style, 16 Ways of Looking at a Photograph: Contemporary Theories explores key concepts that have shaped the interpretation of photography and photography itself. It begins with two important inventions--the development of the photographic negative and the capability to produce multiple prints--and then considers various theories from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. The book concludes with an excursion into "post-photography" theory: the argument that in the digital era, photography as such is altered.


  • Covers an extensive period of history, from pre-photographic ideas to post-photography theory
  • Illustrates vital developments with compelling images that range from Joseph Nicéphore Niépce's "View from the Window at Le Gras" to twenty-first-century examples of new directions in fine art photography, from William Wylie to Andreas Gursky
  • Highlights the contributions of female photographers, including Diane Arbus, Mary Ellen Mark, Carrie Mae Weems, and Francesca Woodman
  • Discusses African American photographic traditions, including work from Carrie Mae Weems, Gordon Parks, and James Van Der Zee
  • Includes work from indigenous photographers James Tylor and Shelley Niro
  • Incorporates a captivating eight-page color insert

About the Author(s)

Claire Raymond is Lecturer of Art History at the University of Virginia. She is the author of several books, including The Photographic Uncanny (2019) and Women Photographers and Feminist Aesthetics (2017).


"16 Ways of Looking at a Photograph pinpoints many of the theoretical issues/discussion points that are desirable in a photographic theory book. It will be useful at many levels of instruction. I have evaluated and considered other photographic theory texts, and many are difficult to digest. I found the writing style of this text to be compelling."--Rebecca Foley, Missouri Western State University

"In 16 Ways of Looking at a Photograph, Claire Raymond keeps the writing current, clear, and engaging without sacrificing the historical foundations of photographic criticism. I especially admire how she uses more precise terminology, but then explains it in the next sentence. That indicates a scholar who is more concerned with educating her public than impressing her peers."--Ginger Sheridan, Jacksonville University

Table of Contents

    List of Images
    Introduction: Where to Look: Seeing Photographs, Reading Photographs
    Art and History
    Reading and Misreading
    The Pleasure of the Photographic Text
    1. The Photographic Negative: Uncanny Origins
    2. Aesthetic Theory: Where the Image Is Not, and Is, All
    3. A Little History of Light
    4. Photography and the Crisis of Time
    5. Walter Benjamin's Shadow: The Optical Unconscious and the Aura
    6. Reticence or Symbolic Form
    7. The Immediate Image: Are You Close Enough?
    8. The Frame
    9. The Question of Genius
    10. Wonders: Photography of Estrangement
    11. Psychic Numbing
    12. The Punctum
    13. Capitalism and t Traffic in Photographs
    14. The Male Gaze: Gendering Photography
    15. The Archive
    16. Are We Post-Photography Yet?

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