HT1 Essential Reading: Marien, Mary Warner ‘What Shall We Tell the Children?’ Photography and Its Texts (Books)

The first time I read the essay I found it very hard to read and to understand (partly because I had a cold and was constantly having to blow my nose every 2 seconds) but after my second reading of it, it became a lot clearer to me.
I now see that when it comes to the history of photography it is very broad and impossible to talk about every photograph ever written, so each book that uses ‘History’ and ‘Photography’ in its title is very brave indeed. No two History of Photography books are the same and include different images and decide to leave in and out different subjects and genre’s.

The basis of Mary Warner’s essay is about Beaumont Newhall who was the first to take on the challenge of writing a book on the History of Photography. I found it very interesting reading about how each edition of Newhall’s book would changed as his perception of what was important changed.
What I found to be the most fascinating adaptation of the book was in his 1975 edition. Newhall after being reluctant to think of collage, montage and bricolage as photography then decided that without photography these mediums and ways of creating art would not exist. I myself can see why you would be disinclined to acknowledge this within a book on the history of photography as I more relate and think of them as art. They are exercises that you would be taught in art class, rather than photography.
This is the section of the essay that I found the most interesting and also that I felt some connection to as I too discover that collage, montage and bricolage cannot exist without photography and so what started out and as a photograph can then become art, but still be a photograph.

In closure to my short post on my first thoughts of Mary Warner Marien’s essay, I was pleasantly surprised at how it did not melt my brain the way I thought it would and look forward to further readings and lectures.


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