Cover image for Transforming images : how photography complicates the picture
Transforming images : how photography complicates the picture
Savedoff, Barbara E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xi, 233 pages : illustrations ; 21 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TR183 .S29 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Barbara E. Savedoff seeks to discern the distinctive character of photography as an art. Why, she asks, do similar images in paintings and photographs strike us differently? How is our reaction to a photograph of a painting unlike our response to the "real" painting? In this imaginative and beautifully illustrated book, she argues that the way we look at and understand photographs varies dramatically from the way we view other images. Savedoff convincingly demonstrates that photography's perceived realism, along with its unexpected ability to transform its subjects, gives this art form its enigmatic power. Featuring examples of the image-within-an-image, her book explores ambiguities of representation in paintings, in photographs, and in films such as Shall We Dance, Sabotage, and Buster Keaton's Sherlock Junior. The volume also addresses questions concerning altered photographs, photo-realist paintings, animated cartoons, and photographic reproductions.A meditative closing chapter probes the effects of digital alteration on our understanding of images. Savedoff argues that as digital imagery becomes more common, our way of looking at photographs and gauging their impact is irrevocably changed.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This well-written book by Savedoff (philosophy, Baruch Coll., CUNY) combines several disciplines: aesthetics, photography and its history, and digital imaging. She has chosen a fascinating and relatively unexplored areaÄthe mysterious effect that occurs when one image includes another image within it (e.g., a painting that includes another painting or a photograph of a scene that includes a poster), or when works of art include objects and abstractions of those objects (e.g., people and their shadows or reflections). This book promotes a greater awareness of the inherent differences between photography and other visual arts and media; regarding the old question of whether photography is an art or a documentary tool, she concludes that we read photographs as records of reality and that therein lies photography's transformative power as an artistic form. Her real contribution in this scholarly and engaging book is to make us alert to what, exactly, we are seeing when we look at reproductions and originals. Recommended for art history, visual studies, and photography collections.ÄKathleen Collins, Bank of America Archives, San Francisco (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Savedoff explores the formalist, or "camera," qualities of photographs as they relate to works in other media, notably painting, in the context of visual transformation. Seeking to explain why we respond differently to photographs and paintings, she focuses on what makes photography a unique medium and also one of mimicry, but one well suited to modernist sensibilities. That said, much of what she offers is well known in the context of photographic criticism, and more especially in studies of photographers' works, where the goal is to illuminate more the artists' creative impulses and accomplishments and less the ontological aspects of the medium. Savedoff (philosophy, Baruch College) has a background in aesthetics and philosophy, rather than art or photographic history. Her knowledge of photography and her understanding of the actual aspects of making photographs are limited; nevertheless, her book has merit for those seeking to understand photographic image making and some of the debates surrounding it, especially today in an era of electronic imagery. Perhaps the most vivid intellectual concern Savedoff reveals is the unease she senses as photography enters a new phase, one which she is unsure of in terms of both its practical result and its aesthetic significance. A timely compilation of ideas. General readers; undergraduates; faculty; professionals. P. C. Bunnell; Princeton University