Photography and the Art of Chance


Kelsey, Robin. Photography and the Art of Chance. Harvard University Press, 2015. Print.
Photography and the Art of Chance


In examining 20th-century photography, [Kelsey] fearlessly wades into the war of words among critics, curators, philosophers and artists alike trying to nail down the jelly-like nature and importance of photography. His prose is concise and academically framed but with a pleasing lack of jargon that makes this book accessible to a non-academic reader, unlike many books published on photo history in the past two decades… Kelsey’s book is a first incursion into an issue that has not been well explored in print, and its conclusions and assertions will certainly be the start of many years of arguments… It should be a standard text for those studying the history of photography in depth. But it also gives lay readers an opportunity to look afresh at the canon of photography and gain a deeper understanding of the constant tension between the camera’s mechanical nature and the photographer’s art.—Roger Watson, The Wall Street Journal

This intriguing study delves into a subject that has troubled photographers since the invention of the medium in the 1840s: how do the happy accidents arising from a mechanical process relate to human dexterity in creating artistic images? Kelsey’s subjects range from early practitioners, including Fox Talbot and Stieglitz, to modernist innovators and 20th-century news photography.Apollo

This ambitious text, both scholarly and affecting, combines art history, psychology, and the history of philosophy and science into a shrewd exploration of ‘how meaning is produced in a medium prone to chance.’ …Though Kelsey’s primary focus is the development of photography, the end result is a wholly informative, refreshing, and rich perspective on photography and Modernism.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Last updated on 10/01/2015