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Photography's great success gives the impression that the major questions that
have haunted the medium are now resolved. On the contrary,the most important
questions about photography are just beginning to be asked. These fourteen
essays, with over 200 illustrations, critically examine prevailing beliefs
about the medium and suggest new ways to explain the history of photography.
They are organized around the questions: What are the social consequences of
aesthetic practice? How does photography construct sexual difference? How is
photography used to promote class and national interests? What are the politics
of photographic truth?The Contest of Meaning summarizes the challenges to
traditional photographic history that have developed in the last decade out of
a consciously political critique of photographic production. Contributions by a
wide range of important Americans critics reexamine the complex -- and often
contradictory -- roles of photography within society. Douglas Crimp,
Christopher Phillips, Benjamin Buchloh, and Abigail Solomon Godeau examine the
gradually developed exclusivity of art photography and describe the politics of
canon formation throughout modernism. Catherine Lord, Deborah Bright, Sally
Stein, and Jan Zita Grover examine the ways in which the female is configured
as a subject, and explain how sexual difference is constructed across various
registers of photographic representation. Carol Squiers, Esther Parada, and
Richard Bolton clarify the ways in which photography serves as a form of mass
communication, demonstrating in particular how photographic production is
affected by the interests of the powerful patrons of communications. The three
concluding essays, by Rosalind Krauss, Martha Rosler, and Allan Sekula,
critically examine the concept of photographic truth by exploring the
intentions informing various uses of "objective" images within society.