The "Public" Life of Photographs

MIT Press

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Hardcover | 18.42 x 2.13 x 23.83 cm | 300 pp

MIT Press | 2016 | 9780262035194

The first of the RIC Books series co-published by the MIT Press and The Image Centre at Toronto Metropolitan University, explores the relationship between how photographs are made available to the public and how they are received and understood.

Do we understand a photograph differently if we encounter it in a newspaper rather than a book? In a photo album as opposed to framed on a museum wall? The “Public” Life of Photographs explores how the various ways that photographs have been made available to the public have influenced their reception. The reproducibility of photography has been the necessary tool in the creation of a mass visual culture. This generously illustrated book explores historical instances of the “public” life of photographic images―tracing the steps from the creation of photographs to their reception.

The contributors―international curators and scholars from a range of disciplines―examine the emergence of photography as mass culture: through studios and public spaces; by the press; through editorial strategies promoting popular and vernacular photography; and through the dissemination of photographic images in the art world. The contributing authors discuss such topics as how photographic images became objects of appropriation and collection; the faith in photographic truthfulness; Life magazine's traveling exhibitions and their effect on the magazine's “media hegemony”; and the curatorial challenges of making vernacular photographs accessible in an artistic environment.


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