The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell, ISBN: 9781514341018.
I purchased this book earlier this year to read as part of my study for my photography degree. I can not recall why I ordered it as it is not listed anywhere as a book to read but as I had it and was going away on holiday where I would have the time and opportunity to read it.
Russell discusses the fundamental argument of philosophy by discussing what is real? He begins by arguing for and against the physical existence of the table he is sitting at and do people all experience the sense of sight, sound, smell and touch the same way? He refers to the information that we receive regarding sight, smell, touch etc. as sense-data which is an interesting choice of words given that this book was written in 1912 and I believe was an expression originally coined by J.M. Keynes. Almost 21st century I.T. language.
This was not too hard to read, if perhaps seeming a little bizarre to read about an argument about the existence of a table but again I like to keep an open mind as I often find that knowledge always find a use, if only to be a bore at a dreadful party!
Understanding a Photograph by John Berger, published by Penguin. This is the second book I have read by Berger, the first was ‘Ways of Seeing’. I read this book whilst on holiday which I took with me as I thought that it would help in my preparation for my fourth assignment which is to write an essay about a photograph.
This book is a collection of essays discussing for example the image of the post-mortum image of Che Guevara and it’s similarity to two famous paintings one of The Anatomy Lesson of Doctor Nicolaes Tulp by Rembrandt and Mantegna’s painting of the dead Christ. Berger also writes an interesting essay on the use of photo-montage for political use and essay on Paul Strand, W. Eugene Smith and a tribute to Cartier-Bresson. He also has writes an interesting essay on a meeting the had with Henry Cartier-Bresson in his flat in Paris (who he was a friend) called ‘A man begging on the Metro’.
Berger is a good writer; but also a typical academic. He studied art at college and is keen on photography but not a photographer therefore his writing can be regarded as a little dry for the hands on type (of which I am one). However, I would recommend reading this book for ideas on constructing an essay for photography. When reading these academic books I sometimes find it hard to gauge what I am actually learn from them. Where on the other hand an exercise book that may refer to these books are more clear and filters out the flowery academic language to explain the heart of the message.
I read these books as well as the text books to try to get a more rounded idea of the intended subjects however, the Jury is still out as to whether this is making a difference to my knowledge.
Susan Sontag, On Photography, (1979) London, Penguin, ISBN: 978-0-14-005397-5.
This book by Susan Sontag is a collection of essays discussing how photography has influenced the world since its invention and how it has played a part in the surrealist art movement in the 20th Century.
The book was first published in 1977 and although photography has moved on she spends a lot of time discussing how photography was first introduced accepted or not and how it came to be the most enduring and influential part of the surrealist movement. She also looks at how photographs are used and how they can be re-used.
Topics and points to note:
In teaching us a new visual code, photographs alter and enlarge out notion of what is worth looking at and what we have a right to observe.
Photos are a grammar and even more importantly, an ethics of seeing.
Photos give us the sense that we can hold the world in our hands.
In photographs the image is also an object.
As object they can be collected, bought & sold, cherished, thrown away, lost & found, etc, etc.
Photographs furnish evidence, they appear to provide proof when something is in doubt.
A photograph justifies, for example through use of surveillance and is a presumption of proof that something exists.
Photography has become almost as widely practiced an amusement as sex and dancing – which means that like all mass art form, photography is not practiced by people as an art. It is mainly a social rite, a defence against anxiety and a tool of power.
Photographs can abet desire and emotions of morality.
The industrialisation of photography permitted its rapid absorption into bureaucratic ways of running society…photographs became part of the general furniture of the environment – touchstones and confirmations of that reductive approach to reality which is considered realistic. Photographs were enrolled in the service of important institutions of control, notably the family and the police, as symbolic object and as pieces of information….many important documents are not valid unless they have affixed to them, a photographic-token of the citizen’s face.