Cover image for Towards a philosophy of photography
Towards a philosophy of photography
Flusser, Vilém, 1920-1991.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Für eine Philosophie der Fotografie. English
Publication Information:
London : Reaktion, [2000]

Physical Description:
94 pages ; 20 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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TR183 .F5813 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Media philosopher Vilém Flusser proposed a revolutionary new way of thinking about photography. An analysis of the medium in terms of aesthetics, science and politics provided him with new ways of understanding both the cultural crises of the past and the new social forms nascent within them. Flusser showed how the transformation of textual into visual culture (from the linearity of history into the two-dimensionality of magic) and of industrial into post-industrial society (from work into leisure) went hand in hand, and how photography allows us to read and interpret these changes with particular clarity.

Author Notes

Vilém Flusser was born in Prague in 1920. After emigrating to Brazil and then to France, he embarked on an influential career as a lecturer and writer on language, design and communication. He died in 1991.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

As both an art medium and a way to record events, photography has become ubiquitous in our increasingly image-driven culture since its invention in the early 1800s. These two interesting books take a serious academic look at how photography has influenced culture. Prague-born philosopher Flusser (1920-91) concerned himself with design, communication, and language. His illuminating essays, originally published in German in 1983, are offered in English for the first time. Flusser describes a world fundamentally changed by the invention of the "technical image" and the mechanisms that support and define industrialized modern culture. He argues that whereas ideas were previously interpreted by written account, the invention of photography allows the creation of images (ideas) taken at face value as truth, not interpretation that can be endlessly replicated and spread worldwide. His essays identify players in this model (his lexicon includes the Apparatus, the Functionary, and the Technical Image) and warn of rising illiteracy owing to an uncritical faith in photography's "reality." Flusser does not speak of specific photographs or images but of the larger forces at work in the increasingly technical and automated world. Unlike Flusser, Batchen (art and art history, Univ. of New Mexico) delves intricately into individual works to explicate his thoughts, digging into such topics as the invention of photography, the medium's impending demise, photography about photography, and "da(r)ta" digital art that comments on its own structure. Conveying a deep respect for the importance of photography, he laments the way images have become commodities in the digital age. Batchen also explores the history of photography and looks at larger cultural forces from within the framework of the medium. This collection of nine recent essays of various origins (with thorough notes and index) contains some repetition, but that small complaint is outweighed by Batchen's compelling arguments and analyses. Of interest to photographers, historians, and philosophers, both books will serve multiple audiences and are recommended for academic and large public libraries. Debora Miller, Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Introductory Notep. 7
The Imagep. 8
The Technical Imagep. 14
The Apparatusp. 21
The Gesture of Photographyp. 33
The Photographp. 41
The Distribution of Photographsp. 49
The Reception of Photographsp. 57
The Photographic Universep. 65
Why a Philosophy of Photography Is Necessaryp. 76
Lexicon of Basic Conceptsp. 83
Afterword, Hubertus von Amelunxenp. 86