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Photography at the Dock

Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices

1994
Author:

Abigail
Solomon-Godeau
Foreword by Linda Nochlin

Photography at the Dock

Classic book integrating cultural criticism, feminism, art theory, and the history of photography now available in paperback.

This book offers a broad sampling of historical and contemporary issues affecting photography, whose aesthetics are often discussed as vigorously as politics and religion. The author is well informed and highly literate. The result is an important contribution to the discourse about photography.

Library Journal

Abigail Solomon-Godeau has set as her task the examination of the politics of photographic criticism, history, and practice. Photography at the Dock is a revisionist approach to the history of photography, a critique of photographic modernism and the institutions promoting it, and a feminist exploration of the camera's role in producing (and reproducing) dominant social and sexual ideology.

Considering the role of cultural institutions—art historians, collectors, and dealers in construction histories of photography—Solomon-Godeau critiques such institutionalized aesthetics while offering an implied counter-history of the medium. She considers also the place of photography within post-modernism, tracing its evolution from a critical practice to a stylistic option.

Lastly, Solomon-Godeau examines the work of a feminist photographer who seeks to counter the sexual politics that photography normally confirms. This, in turn, includes themes concerning the massive production of photographic erotica and pornography that are taken up and considered in relation to contemporary feminist theory and art practice.


Photography at the Dock

Abigail Solomon-Godeau teaches art history at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Linda Nochlin teaches art history at New York University.

Photography at the Dock

This book offers a broad sampling of historical and contemporary issues affecting photography, whose aesthetics are often discussed as vigorously as politics and religion. The author is well informed and highly literate. The result is an important contribution to the discourse about photography.

Library Journal

Solomon-Godeau examines the picture inside the frame, the frame itself, and the larger context of both, by merging a feminist metacritique with an empirical, aesthetic approach to photographic images.

Voice Literary Supplement

Fascinating, eloquent. Of special interest to anyone involved in the academic study of photography.

Feminist Bookstore News

Abigail Solomon-Godeau has a wide-ranging and theoretically sophisticated feminist approach to the visual arts—in her case, focusing exclusively on photography as a historical and contemporary practice and a social apparatus for producing and reinforcing or deconstructing categories of sexual differences. Solomon-Godeau offers this new book of her collected essays, Photography at the Dock: Essays on Photographic History, Institutions, and Practices—a beautifully designed and elegant book with high-quality black and white reproductions—as ‘a chronicle of photographic discourse of the 1980s.’ Solomon-Godeau's claim is not inflated, for not only has she been influential in the post-1970 establishment of a critical discourse of photography history, but in the essays reprinted here she covers ground from nineteenth-century calotypes to postmodern photographic practices. In this way, the book does cover the two major arms of the critical discourse in photography that developed in the 1980s—essays rereading historical practices and histories of photography from a feminist and/or Marxian perspective; and essays examining and paralleling developments in contemporary photographic practices—particularly those appropriative practices now seen as typical of postmodernism in the visual arts. Generally, Solomon-Godeau's approach is characterized by an impressively integrated weaving of psychoanalytic, Marxian, and specifically feminist theories, which she employs in examining the construction or deconstruction of bourgeois subjectivity and particularly sexual identities in various photographic practices.

Camera Obscura

Employing postmodern and feminist critiques of representation as key reference points, Solomon-Godeau raises crucial questions about the complicity of photography in the reproduction of oppressive historical formations as well as considering the possibilities of photographic practice intervening to disrupt this reproduction. Within this agenda, Solomon-Godeau articulates an incisive, passionate, critical stance from which she addresses the professional community whose identities and commitments are formed within a concern for the practice and study of photography.

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