Collaboration: A Potential History of Photography

Thames & Hudson. Feb. 2024. 288p. ISBN 9780500545331. $85. PHOTOG
Conventional histories of photography tend to prize the lone photographer who uses their aesthetic vision and technical skill to capture a subject. This book—its creators call it “a practical experiment, a theoretical proposition, a pedagogical tool”—asks “What do we learn when we look at photography through the lens of collaboration?” The authors (academics Azoulay, Leigh Raiford, and Laura Wexler and photographers Wendy Ewald and Susan Meiselas) define collaboration as the labor of the many people, besides the photographer, who help create images but often go unnoticed. Organized into eight broad themes (the authorial position; iconization; violence; community), the book’s double-page layout originates in previous iterations of the material as shown in exhibition, although this title is not strictly an exhibition catalogue. With photos, quotations, and critical commentary, the layouts articulate multiple perspectives. Over 100 writers contribute commentaries on over 600 photographs from the 19th century to the present. Readers will need some familiarity with the academic language that the texts employ. Includes photographer and contributor biographies, a list of sources, and an index.
VERDICT An invigorating alternative to traditional ways of understanding the history of photography.
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