Just finished chapter four of Graham Clarke's The Photograph.
I'm really enjoying the book and it's great to have individual photos critiqued in detail so that we can learn to improve how we view photographs as art. I can totally understand why it is given as part of this course.
The last chapter did make me think though, I'm a massive fan of landscapes and I think that a landscape photograph can evoke more emotions and intrigue than any other subject matter, but I think that Graham Clarke may have given too much credit to some of the photographers and their intentions when taking the earlier photographs. A lot of early landscapes seem to have been commissions from governments which tells me that the photographers were fulfilling a brief and weren't simply creating art.
Not to say that there was no art in early photography, and Talbot , Fenton and Calvert Jones were certainly following painting traditions, but Clarke attributes a lot of social commentary to the photos and I don't think this was intentional. When Talbot took photos of his book shelf, it wasn't to produce an autobiographical commentary on his social standing, I imagine it was to practice his new technique, the same must surely be true of Daguerre.
This may come across as arrogant on my part and I don't mean to criticise Clarke's book or writing. Its just a thought that's been occurring to me.