Art Rules: Pierre Bourdieu and the Visual Arts

By Michael Grenfell; Cheryl Hardy | Go to book overview

6
Photography

Introduction

Bourdieu's relationship to photography was a complex one. He was himself a proficient photographer and used photographic techniques in his work as a sociologist. Examples of this aspect of his work are found in Travail et travailleurs en Algérie (1963), Images d'Algérie (2003) and 'The Peasant and Photography' (2004b). He also explored photography as an element of French cultural practice in Les Etudiants et leurs études (1964b), Les Héritiers (1979/1964) and in La Distinction (1984/1979). He undertook extensive empirical investigation of photographic practice in France in the 1960s, presented in his major work on photography, Un Art moyen (1965), translated as Photography: A Middle-brow Art (1990a). This collection of works is addressed in the first part of this chapter. In the second part, individual photographers and specific settings or periods are examined, as in chapters 4 and 5, by applying Bourdieu's three-level analysis of fields, in this case, to the photographic field.

As a cultural practice, photography is particularly diverse in its techniques, purposes and products, ranging from the amateur holiday snapshot, preserved lovingly in an album, through the high society portraits of glossy coffee-table books, to the cutting-edge photo-montage displayed in prestigious art museums. Photographers are themselves equally varied: the war photographer, the photographer taking pictures for art reproductions, the cookery photographer, the camera club fanatic, the artist using a camera to make fine art images, the anthropologist recording his findings or the five-year-old using a digital camera in school. As a visual practice highly dependent on technology, photography changes rapidly. At a time when mobile phones are capable of capturing still and moving digital images, it is surprising to think that it is less than 200 years since the first photographic images were fixed on paper. This, therefore, is a cultural field where change is routine and diversification is commonplace. Photographic practice is consequently well matched to the dynamic nature of Bourdieu's field theory, where habitus of different individuals interact with one another and with the structuring structures of cultural, economic and social fields to generate new structures, emergent field positions and reconfigured habitus. This process is illustrated in the second part of this chapter by considering a number of notable photographers, their habitus and their field positions. The evolution of photography as a field is explored through

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Art Rules: Pierre Bourdieu and the Visual Arts
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • List of Tables and Figures xi
  • I - Introduction 1
  • Part I - Theory 7
  • 2: A Brief History of Theory 9
  • 3: Aesthetics and the Visual Arts 36
  • Part II - Practice 63
  • 4: Museums 65
  • 5: Painting 107
  • 6: Photography 137
  • Part III - Visual Arts in the Twenty-First Century 171
  • 7: Back to the Future 173
  • 8: Conclusion 195
  • Bibliography 199
  • Index 209
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