Thierry Gervais

Thierry Gervais is Assistant Professor at Ryerson University and Head of Research at the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC), Toronto.

  • The "Public" Life of Photographs

    The "Public" Life of Photographs

    Thierry Gervais

    An exploration of 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.

    The “Public” Life of Photographs is the first volume in a series called RIC Books, which is copublished by MIT Press and the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC). The RIC, located at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, is a museum dedicated to the exhibition, research, study and teaching of photography and related disciplines.

    Contributors Geoffrey Batchen, Nathalie Boulouch, Heather Diack, André Gunthert, Sophie Hackett, Vincent Lavoie, Olivier Lugon, Mary Panzer, Joel Snyder

    • Hardcover $35.00 £28.00

Contributor

  • The Birth of the Idea of Photography

    The Birth of the Idea of Photography

    François Brunet

    A milestone work that examines the democratic idea of photography and its expansion in common culture, particularly in the United States; generously illustrated.

    This influential text by French historian and theorist François Brunet considers the invention and history of photography as the birth of an idea, rather than a new type of image. This “idea photography” combines a logical theme—that of an art without artistry—and the democratic political promise of an art for all. Officially endorsed by the 1839 French law on the daguerreotype, this idea reverberated throughout the nineteenth century in Europe and America. Brunet shows how emerging image technologies and practices in France and Britain were linked to this logical/political construction of photography, from the earliest researches of Nicéphore Niépce, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, and Henry Fox Talbot up to the turn of the twentieth century. The parallel development of the Kodak camera and Alfred Stieglitz's “straight” vision in the United States then fulfilled, while also depreciating, the utopian promise of photography for all. This history reached a provisional climax with the reflections on images by Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hippolyte Adolphe Taine, Sigmund Freud, Henri-Louis Bergson, and Charles Sanders Peirce, reflections that both demonstrated the novelty of photography and forecast many later debates on its technology and aesthetics.

    The Birth of the Idea of Photography has been enriched with more than fifty photographs, reproduced in color, from North American and European collections. This edition also features a new preface by the author.

    • Hardcover $34.95 £28.00
  • The Eye of History

    The Eye of History

    When Images Take Positions

    Georges Didi-Huberman

    An exploration of the interaction of aesthetics and politics in Bertolt Brecht's “photoepigrams.”

    From 1938 to 1955, Bertolt Brecht created montages of images and text, filling his working journal (Arbeitsjournal) and his idiosyncratic atlas of images, War Primer, with war photographs clipped from magazines and adding his own epigrammatic commentary. In this book, Georges Didi-Huberman explores the interaction of politics and aesthetics in these creations, explaining how they became the means for Brecht, a wandering poet in exile, to “take a position” about the Nazi war in Europe. Illustrated with pages from the Arbeitsjournal and War Primer and contextual images including Raoul Hausmann's poem-posters and Walter Benjamin's drawings, The Eye of History offers a new view of important but little-known works by Brecht.

    Didi-Huberman shows that Brecht took positions without taking sides; he used these montages to challenge the viewpoints of the press and propose other readings, to offer a stylistic and political response to the inescapable visibility of historical events enabled by the photographic medium. Brecht's montages disrupt and scrutinize this visibility by juxtaposing representations of war found in magazines with his own epigrams—a “documentary lyricism” that dismounts and remounts modern history. The montages created meaningful disorder, exposing the truth by disorganizing—a process Didi-Huberman calls a “dialectic of the monteur.” These works are examples of “the eyes of history”—when seeing may simultaneously deepen and critique historical knowledge. The montages Didi-Huberman argues, are Brecht's most Benjaminian works.

    • Hardcover $34.95 £28.00