This revised, second edition of a sole-author book is a critical examination of the phenomenon of contemporary art photography. It was the product of extensive readings across philosophy, psychology and performance studies. As part of her updates for this edition, Soutter also surveyed the output of many global contemporary art photographers, selecting works for analysis by emergent figures such as Amalia Ulman, Lorenzo Vitturi and Zanele Muholi, who have not hitherto been the subject of significant critical examination.
Eschewing the usual touchstones in cultural studies, semiotics and the social history of art, Soutter established a number of fresh methodological vantage points for considering the central themes of art photography today. For instance, a chapter on digital practices describes a widening gap between spectacular ‘hyperphotography’ and degraded manifestations of ‘the poor image’, reflecting uses of photography within current social media. The relationship to this ‘source’ material has, as Soutter demonstrated, more significance for photography than its unstable relationship to real-world objects, a subject which preoccupied theorists of digital images in the 1990s.
An art historian and critic with expertise in various fields, Soutter shapes an argument in the book about the ways that the field of photographic practice has expanded to overlap with other forms of art and cultural production. In a chapter on the aesthetics of affect, she shows how a subject that has been widely discussed in a fine art context has not been adequately addressed in relation to contemporary photography.