I have finally finished reading this book. It has taken me nearly a year. I have only understood about half of the text. Written by an academic, for academics, the language is very obscure. I was constantly referring to a dictionary. For an author with such a large vocabulary, Clark’s constant use of the words “indeed” and “thus” was irritating. I learned much more from watching the excellent Genius of Photography series (my learning style is audio/visual/kinesthetic) and a lot of Clarke’s book became clear as a result.
It was not all bad though, in conjunction with the TV series, I learned a lot about the history of photography, the development of the different genres and the way in which the medium has changed and is perceived in modern (today’s) society. What I didn’t understand was how so much indifferent photography can be accepted as art just because the so called artist or critic strings together a lot of big words and vague notions. I’m not saying the work has no validity, if the photographer believes in it, that’s its own validation. I just find it incredible that so many people seem to fall for it. If a photograph needs too much wordy explanation then perhaps the “artist” should become a writer or poet.
Cleverly, the whole gist of the book can be summarised by the penultimate sentence “…….the photograph is, in the end, open to endless meanings.” The flyleaf describes Clark’s book as a “clear and incisive account”. Not for me. While the book does communicate successfully in some areas, it obfuscates equally in others.