Philosophy of Photography
Lieven Gevaert Series, Vol. 6
By Henri Van Lier
Leuven University Press
Distributed By Coronet Books
126 pages, Illustrated, 6 3/4" x 9"
$67.50 Paper Original
Henri Van Lier’s contribution to the field of photography is comparable, in its scope as well as in its achievements, to the work of all those we now consider being the great modern classics: Walter Benjamin, André Bazin, André Malraux, John Berger, Susan Sontag, or Roland Barthes. Less well known, probably for having worked and published in Belgium, Henri Van Lier had written with Philosophy of Photography a profoundly original and innovative reflection on the medium, both on its formal peculiarities and on its social, cultural, and anthropological functions.
Much more than other theoreticians, Van Lier succeeds in combining an astute sense of the detail with an extremely broad interest in the meaning of the medium for mankind (for Van Lier, photography is always analyzed in the light of a new discipline he coined as ‘anthropogeny’ and which studies the gradual emergence of what makes us human through the history of the species). Moreover, having no particular institutional agenda to defend, Henri Van Lier is able to gather a wide range of disciplinary insights and questions –semiotics, history, aesthetics, and, why not, also philosophy.
The present translation is the very first to appear in English, yet it is also much more. The book has received a completely new set of illustrations, meant to be more than merely ‘illustrative’. Made by sixteen young photographers all trained by the Belgian photographer Geert Goiris, who devoted an open master class to Henri Van Lier’s work, all these images represent both an homage to the author of Philosophy of Photography and a timely exemplification of the use-value of the ideas defended in the book.
Each of the photographers has indeed attempted to suggest in his or her own image(s) the echoes which specific points of Van Lier’s work are able to create in the mind, the eyes, but also the hands of contemporary readers and viewers. In this sense, this book is not just a scholarly work; it has become a work of art.
Table of contents
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM HENRI VAN LIER
Jan Baetens & Geert Goiris
TOWARDS A PHILOSOPHY INSTIGATED BY PHOTOGRAPHY
PART ONE: THE TEXTURE AND STRUCTURE OF THE PHOTOGRAPH
1. The abstractive imprint
2. Indices and indexes
3. Field effects before denotations and connotations
4.. The non-scene: on the obscene in stimuli-signs and figures
5. Reproduction and transmutability: process and relay
6. Reality and the real
The cosmos-mundus and the universe
The possible and the black box
7. The triggering of the mental schemas
8. Types differing from black and white
PART TWO: PHOTOGRAPHIC INITIATIVES
1. The initiative of industrial technology
2. The initiative of nature
3. The initiative of the spectacle: photogenicity
4. The initiative of the photographer: trap and switch mediumism
PART THREE: PHOTOGRAPHIC BEHAVIORS
1. Pragmatic behaviors
2. Artistic behaviors
3. Scientific, documentary and testimonial behaviors
POSTSCRIPT: NEW THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES
APPENDIX: PEIRCE AND PHOTOGRAPHY
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