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The Critical Eye

Fifteen Pictures to Understand Photography

The Critical Eye provides a comprehensive approach to the critical understanding of photography through an in-depth discussion of fifteen photographs and their contexts—historical, generic, biographical, and aesthetic. Lyle Rexer argues that by concentrating on just a few carefully chosen works it is possible to understand the history, development, and contemporary situation of photography.
Looking at images by photographers such as Roland Fischer, Myoung Ho Lee, Zanele Muholi, and Ernest Cole, The Critical Eye addresses a wide range of issues involved in photography, from authorial self-consciousness to the role of the audience, and with every chapter it seeks to link the history of photography to current practice.

180 pages | 80 color plates | 9 x 9 | © 2019

Art: Art--General Studies

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"I love how curious and sensitive these readings of pictures are, bringing me into the photographer's mind. I felt I was seeing some images (that I know well) for the first time. The writing is totally visual, stimulated, and stimulating, whether it is dealing with Julianne Nash in 2017, or a daguerreotypist in 1839. Even when Rexer is telling me something I already know historically, it feels like being there, and I am getting to know it in a new way."

Lisa Kereszi, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Art, Yale School of Art

"Rexer's timely investigation in the shifting universe of photography underpins a number of arguments to which I subscribe wholeheartedly: that images need more 'active viewers'; that photography itself is no longer a medium but rather 'a Swiss Army knife,' i.e., a single approach and tool with many, and very diverse, applications; and that photographic practices can no longer be neatly separated into art, commercial, vernacular, or scientific domains. For this reason, the book is required reading for anyone who wants to grasp the changed--and still changing--territory of image making, especially in arts and cultural production. Through a laser-focused analysis of fifteen 'hub' photographs, Rexer can tell us as much as fifteen books' worth on how to make sense of contemporary photography: how it is no longer a means to an end, but a form of 'visually performing' our lives."

Alfredo Cramerotti, editor, Critical Photography book series

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