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Distributed for Reaktion Books

Photography and Literature

Aspiring writers are often admonished to “show, not tell,” an instruction that immediately speaks to the relationship between the written word and the visual world. It is a tenuous correspondence—both literature and art are striving toward the same goal of depiction, but the reality they portray is shaped by their chosen tools. As François Brunet argues in Photography and Literature, the advent of photography posed one of the greatest challenges to writers—here was an artistic medium that could almost instantly distill a scene or perspective. As Brunet shows, the result of this challenge has been a fantastic interplay between the two and between photographers and writers themselves.

            Photography and Literature assess the complete history of photography, and Brunet begins by examining how the invention of photography was shaped by written culture, both scientific and literary. As well, Brunet looks at the creation of the photo-book, the frequent personal discovery of photography by writers, and how photography and literature eventually began to trade tools and merge formats to create a new photo-textual genre. Highly illustrated, Photography and Literature reflects a photographer’s point of view, giving new attention to such works as the groundbreaking exploration of photography in The Pencil of Nature by William Henry Fox Talbot and Sophie Calle’s projects with Jean Baudrillard and Paul Auster.

            Essential for anyone interested in the intersection of the verbal and the visual, Photography and Literature provides a fascinating wealth of autobiography, manifesto, and fiction as well as a variety of images from the first daguerreotypes to the digital age.

192 pages | 74 color plates, 22 halftones | 7 1/2 x 8 2/3 | © 2009


Art: Photography

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"Brunet’s beautifully illustrated study shows how, starting with the British pioneer William Fox Talbot, photography has shed this aura of objectivity to become a medium of individual expression. Today, photography is the "new muse of literature" and it subverts the very reality its images were once thought to reflect with such veracity."–Guardian

Guardian (UK)

"It is the scope and enthusiasm with which Photography and Literature connects the literary impulse with photography’s vision of the world that makes this book a welcome addition."


"As Brunet skillfully negotiates more than 150 years of photographic history, he offers a coherent argument for the emergence of photography as a kind of writing, with possibilities for narrative and fiction that exceed its promise to capture the world as it is."

Andrew Starner | Wilson Quarterly

Table of Contents

One    Writing the Invention of Photography
Two    Photography and the Book
Three  Literary Discoveries of Photography
Four   The Literature of Photography
Five    The Photography of Literature
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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