Cover of Photography by Pierre Bourdieu and associates Translated by Shaun Whiteside
Photography
A Middle-Brow Art
Pierre Bourdieu and associates Translated by Shaun Whiteside

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1990
232 pages.
$25.95

Paper ISBN: 9780804726894

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Reviews

The everyday practice of photography by millions of amateur photographers may seem to be a spontaneous and highly personal activity. But France's leading sociologist and cultural theorist Pierre Bourdieu and his research associates show that few cultural activities are more structural and systematic than photography.

This perceptive and wide-ranging analysis of the practice of photography reveals the logic implicit in this cultural field. For some social groups, photography is primarily a means of preserving the present and reproducing moments of collective celebration, whereas for other groups it is the occasion of an aesthetic judgment in which photographs are endowed with the dignity of works of art. Bourdieu and his associates examine the socially differentiated forms of photographic practice by drawing on the results of surveys and interviews and by analyzing the attitudes and characteristics of both amateur and professional photographers.

First published n 1965, Photography provides an excellent opportunity to observe key parts of Bourdieu's theories at a formative stage. Ideas that will become central to his thought—the habitus, the structuring of taste by class position, people's use of taste to distinguish themselves from the classes to which they are adjacent, and the internalization of objective probabilities—make an early appearance here. It is the first study to integrate survey research and anthropological observation in the manner for which Bourdieu has become justly renowned.

About the authors

Pierre Bourdieu is Professor of Sociology at the Collège de France and Director of the Center for European Sociology at the École de Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

"It is one of only a few studies to apply the results of surveys and interviews to form an analysis from a social perspective. It is also important because it reveals aspects of Bourdieu's theories at an early stage."

Choice

"The significance of Bourdieu's work for American studies lies in his powerful argument about the social definitions of popular aesthetics. His insistence that even the most trivial photographs serve social functions can be extended beyond photography and, thus, should be of interest to any student of popular culture."

American Quarterly

"The book contains several elements by Bourdieu: an analysis of the role of photography in the family life of peasants and small-town and urban dwellers, and an exploration of the 'social definition of photography,' including a brief essay on how different classes and groups express their aesthetic worldview in response to different photographs and photographic styles. Additional chapters by Bourdieu's colleagues explore the sociology of the camera club, photographic practice and the fine arts, and the nature of photography as an occupation. . . . Sociologists interested in culture will learn a great deal about the operation of a peculiar and pervasive symbolic system from this book. Bourdieu's writing (as that of his colleagues) is intricate, complex, and intellectually rewarding."

American Journal of Sociology