Review of The Camerawork Essays Creative Camera
1996/Feb - March

The Camerawork Essays 1976 -1985 Rivers Oram Press, form an anthology of seminal texts originally printed in Camerawork magazine with an additional essay on Jo Spence, a pioneer of the Camerawork project and interventionist in work on class, self identity and photo therapy. Evan's 'An Affront to taste? The Disturbances of Jo Spence' explores her use of the body and grotesque realism in her work. An extensive Introduction by editor Jessica Evans gives a historical survey of radical photographic practice contextualized as a critical practice. The 15 essays are divided .into three thematic titles. Firstly 'Context Form and Meaning' including Victor Burgin's 'Art Common Sense and Photography' a semiotic consideration of the photograph as a set of signs, rhetorical devices and ideological contents.   Secondly 'Photography and History' includes 'On Foucalt: Disciplinary Power and Photography' by David Green and Don Macpherson's 'Nation, Mandate, Memory' which looks at the rhetoric of documentary as a nationalist aesthetic and a spurious past. Thirdly 'Ideological practices' includes; Rosetta Brooks's 'Fashion: Double Page spread' and Kathy Myres's 'Towards a Feminist Erotica', both examining media saturated, sexual politics. Myers's 'Loves Labour Lost' and 'Left in Sight' by Stuart Haft, examine the Labour advertising campaign of 1983.

Grounded in grassroots sociological orientation and drawing on Freudian, Marxist and semiotic theory, subtitles and semicolons abound as do metaphors of 'empowerment', 'exposing', 'unmasking' and 'demystifying'. However Camerawork's democratising practices, lacking in the contemporary fashion of irony and one word emblem titles, have created the conditions for photographic literacy and perhaps acted as an aid to heterogeneous practices. In the post discursive, premillenial tension of the 90's, Camerawork's 70's ideology of photography as 'cultural production1 rather than 'art' with it's baggage of expressive individualism, runs counter to current concerns of fine art and criticism. However active meanings inherited from the authenticating power of lived experience offer an enduring strength to texts not tost to history but written as history, serving as a salient lesson and sociological epitaph.

Esther Windsor

Scene and Heard
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Review of The Camerawork Essays Creative Camera