Art Photography Now.
Edited by Susan Bright.
Thames & Hudson, 2011. 240 pp., Illustrated throughout,
Andy Warhol looms larger than Alfred Stieglitz over this survey of contemporary photographers, who tend to be more preoccupied with popular and commercial imagery than traditional fine art photography. With their digital manipulations and cinematically constructed narratives, many of them unabashedly embrace flashy artifice over sober documentation. Not that Bright, a former curator of the National Portrait Gallery in London, tries to categorize the messy vitality of contemporary photography into any clearly labeled trends. She divides the 80 mostly British and American photographers into seven thematic chapters that allow for wide latitude. 'Portraits,' for example, includes both Zwelethu Mthethwa's straightforward images of South African migrant workers and Gillian Wearing's photos of herself dressed as several of her own family members. While Bright's own commentary follows the ponderous style adopted by curators everywhere, she gives equal room to the words of the photographers themselves, who often provide insight without even trying. Cindy Sherman, whose 1980s photographs of herself masquerading as movie stars and historical characters set the stage for much of the work in this book, says, 'I didn't know where (my art) was coming from. So I thought I had better not say anything or I'd blow it.'