Contemporary Photography in France
Between Theory and Practice
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Monograph - ebookVIEW Monograph - paperback
study of contemporary photography in France
This compelling publication traces the broad arc of photography’s development in France from the 1970s to the present day. A decade-by-decade account reveals unexpected points of convergence between practices that are not usually considered in a comparative perspective. These include photographic practices in contemporary art, documentary, photojournalism, and fashion. Author Olga Smith sets these practices in dialogue with French philosophy – the writings of Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, and Jacques Rancière – to produce an innovative study of the intersections between the photographic image, text, practice, and theory. This analysis is guided by an understanding of photography as deeply engaged with historical, cultural, and intellectual events that defined French national experience in the contemporary period. Landscape provides a particular focus to study issues of key significance, including national identification, colonial past, legacies of modernization and environmental breakdown.
This publication is GPRC-labeled (Guaranteed Peer-Reviewed Content).
Chapter 1. 1970s: Engagement and Subjectivity
Chapter 2. 1980s: Objectivity in a Dematerialized World
Chapter 3. 1990s–2000s: The Future of The Photographic Image
Conclusion: The Landscapes of France
Landscape and the National Imaginary
Format: Monograph - ebook
32 pp. full colour
Publication: October 21, 2022
Series: Lieven Gevaert Series 32
Lunettes rouges, 31 janvier 2023, https://www.lemonde.fr/blog/lunettesrouges/2023/01/31/sur-la-photographie-poivert-et-smith/
Smith’s history of contemporary photography, both detailed and very readable, is a decidedly innovative publication, even for readers already familiar with the field and the critical debates that surround it. The major novelty of the book is, paradoxically speaking, the choice of a nonphotographic point of departure. [...] As (re)written by Smith, the recent history of French photography makes room for a wealth of images, excellently printed in a rich gallery of color plates, and a great variety of ways of doing photography criticism. One can only hope that this excellent overview will spark new interest in what is going on in France, both in terms of the production of new images and in terms of critical discourses on the role and place of photography in society.
Jan Baetens, Leonardo Reviews Archive, January 2023
Olga Smith offers here a remarkable study of the French photographic
scene of the last decades, which benefits from her in-depth knowledge of the
historical context, theoretical debates and artistic practices. In a real tour
de force, she succeeds in repatriating some of the key concepts of the
so-called French Theory into their original cultural context, thus intervening
in the ideological struggles between modernism and postmodernism. Books on
photography in France in English language are rare. I've been waiting for this
one for a long time.
Clément Chéroux, The Joel and Anne Ehrenkranz Chief Curator of Photography, MoMA
Olga Smith’s book bridges the histories of philosophy and photography in a compelling way. This rich and detailed study provides a fascinating insight into French theory and art, yet it moves beyond the national paradigm to open new perspectives in global media historiographies. Concise in its argumentation and lucid in its style, this book will find readership far beyond its specialist focus.
Steffen Siegel, Folkwang University
At once erudite and engaging, Smith's book shows how French photographic practices since the 1970s have been bound up with thought, politics, history, and art. The book constitutes essential reading for anyone wanting to understand French culture today.
Shirley Jordan, Newcastle University