Photography Criticism

This is a nice essay on photography criticism.

The great exception to all this is photography criticism. There, you will hear precious little talk of love or passion or terrible nakedness. There, critics view emotional responses—if they, or their readers, have any—not as something to be experienced and understood but, rather, to be vigilantly guarded against: to these writers, criticism is a prophylactic against the virus of sentiment. When we enter the world of photography criticism we travel far from Baudelaire’s exploration of his pleasure; for there is little pleasure to be had, and even that is condemned as voyeuristic, pornographic, or exploitative. Put most bluntly, for the past century most photography critics haven’t really liked photographs, or the experience of looking at them, at all. They approach photography—not specific photographs, or specific practitioners, or specific genres, but photography itself—with suspicion, mistrust, anger, and fear. Rather than enter into what Kazin called a “community of interest” with their subject, these critics come armed to the teeth against it. For them, photography is a powerful, duplicitous force to be defanged rather than an experience to embrace.


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