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Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus

Modern Photography Explained

Jackie Higgins


An engaging, thoroughgoing and enlightening reappraisal of contemporary photography that shows that there’s much more to the art of photography than just pointing and clicking

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Why take a self-portrait but obscure your face with a lightbulb (Lee Friedlander, Provincetown, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1968)? Or deliberately underexpose an image (Vera Lutter, Battersea Power Station, XI: July 13, 2004)? And why photograph a ceiling (William Eggleston, Untitled (Greenwood, Mississippi, 1973)?

In Why It Does Not Have To Be In Focus, Jackie Higgins offers a lively, informed defence of modern photography. Choosing 100 key photographs – with particular emphasis on the last twenty years – she examines what inspired each photographer in the first place, and traces how the piece was executed. In doing so, she brings to light the layers of meaning and artifice behind these singular works, some of which were initially dismissed out of hand for being blurred, overexposed or ‘badly’ composed.

- Discover why Gillian Wearing’s Self-Portrait at 17 Years Old not the straightforward photobooth snap that it first appears to be.

- Find out what lies behind Hiroshi Sugimoto’s decision to use a 19th-century large-format camera for his work – an apparently perverse choice, given his intention to throw the images it creates out of focus.

- And explore what prompted Richard Prince to begin photographing existing photographs – an act that saw him pilloried by some critics for lazily profiting from other people’s work.

The often controversial images in this book play with our expectations of a photograph, our tendency to believe that it is telling us the unadorned truth. Jackie Higgins proves once and for all that the art of photography is much more sophisticated than it at first may seem.

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'A great book – inventive, and persuasively argued'
Amateur Photographer

'If you’re after a pocket primer in contemporary art photography, 'Why It Does Not Have to Be In Focus' offers an incisive starting point'
Daily Telegraph

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Flexibound PLC (with jacket)

Size: 19.8 x 14.0 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 100

Publication date: 16 September 2013

ISBN: 9780500290958

Contents List

Introduction • 1. Portraits: Smile • 2. Document: Snap • 3. Narrative: Action • 4. Still Lives: Freeze • 5. Abstracts: Dissolve • 6. Landscapes: Look

About the Author

Jackie Higgins is a writer, journalist and filmmaker whose work embraces a range of subjects. She was a contributing writer to Photography: The Whole Story, also published by Thames & Hudson.