Photography : A Middle-Brow Art

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The everyday practice of photography by millions of amateur photographers - the family snapshots, the holiday prints, the wedding portraits - may seem to be a spontaneous and highly personal activity. But Bourdieu and his associates show that few cultural activities are more structured and systematic than the social uses of this ordinary art.

This perceptive and wide-ranging analysis of the practice of photography brings out the logic implicit in this cultural field. The norms which define the occasions and the objects of photography serve to display the socially differentiated functions of, and attitudes towards, the photographic image and act. For some social groups, photography is primarily a means of preserving the present and reproducing the euphoric moments of collective celebration, whereas for other groups it is the occasion of an aesthetic judgement, in which photos are endowed with the dignity of works of art.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 232 pages
  • 156 x 228 x 13mm | 348g
  • Polity Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New
  • 0745617158
  • 9780745617152
  • 516,265

Table of contents


Part I: .

1. The Cult of Unity and Cultivated Differences (Pierre Bourdieu).

2. The Social Definition of Photography (Pierre Bourdieu).

Part II: .

3. Aesthetic Ambitions and Social Aspirations: The Camera Club as a Secondary Group (Robert Castel and Dominique Schnapper).

4. Mechanical Art, Natural Art: Photographic Artists (Jean-Claude Chamboredon).

5. Professional Men or Men of Quality: Professional Photographers (Luc Boltanski and Jean-Claude Chamboredon).


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About Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu is Professor of Sociology at the College de France and Director of Studies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales.
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Review quote

"At his best Pierre Bourdieu observes the world like an acerbic novelist, and Photography is Bourdieu at his best -- its insights into the popular use of the camera still offer the delights of recognition and a valuable reminder that cultural studies need the empirical and theoretical underpinnings provided by good, Durkheimian sociology." Simon Frith "Interesting ... in its scope and insights." The Guardian "Pathbreaking [and] intriguing." Times Higher Education Supplement
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Rating details

75 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 24% (18)
4 40% (30)
3 33% (25)
2 3% (2)
1 0% (0)
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