In On Photographs, curator and writer David Campany presents an exploration of photography in 120 photographs. Proceeding not by chronology or genre or photographer, Campany's eclectic selection unfolds according to its own logic. We see work by Henri Cartier-Bresson, William Eggleston, Helen Levitt, Garry Winogrand, Louise Lawler, Andreas Gursky, and Rineke Dijkstra. There is fashion photography by William Klein, one of Vivian Maier's contact sheets, and a carefully staged scene by Gregory Crewdson, as well as images culled from magazines and advertisements. Each of the 120 photographs is accompanied by Campany's lucid and incisive commentary, considering the history of that image and its creator, interpreting its content and meaning, and connecting and contextualizing it within visual culture. Image by image, we absorb and appreciate Campany's complex yet playful take on photography and its history.
The title, On Photographs, alludes to Susan Sontag's influential and groundbreaking On Photography. As an undergraduate, Campany met Sontag and questioned her assessment of photography without including specific photographs. Sontag graciously suggested that someday Campany could write his own book on the subject, titled On Photographs. Now he has.
David Campany is a curator and writer based in London and New York. He is the author of Walker Evans: The Magazine Work, The Open Road: Photography and the American Road Trip, Jeff Wall: Picture for Women (Afterall Books/MIT Press), and other books.
Campany's book is a delightful jumble of particulars, and a corrective, in many ways, to theories of photography that concern themselves very little with actual photographs.
Art in America
This beautifully designed and concise volume is a great introduction to photography.
Clear and accessible enough for beginner students, and yet full of insights and information beneficial to photographers of any maturity.