Photography and Failure: One Medium's Entanglement with Flops, Underdogs and Disappointments
Throughout photography's history, failure has played an essential, recurring part in the development and perceived value of this medium. Exploring a range of failures - individual and institutional, technological and historiographical - Photography and Failure asks what it means to fail and considers how this narrative of failure has shaped our understanding of photography. From the trial-and-error beginnings of photochemistry to poor business decisions influenced by fickle public opinion and taste, the founders and early practitioners of photography frequently faced bankruptcy and ignominy. Alongside these individual 'failures', this collection of essays examines the role of museums in rediscovering, preserving and presenting photographs within institutions, as well as technological limitations, such as the problematic panoramic lens or the digital, archival failures of Snapchat. Moving beyond the physical photograph and these processes, the book also investigates the limitations of photographs themselves, as purveyors of truth, time, space, documentary realism and social change, whether these failures are used to effect or not. Finally, the book probes the historiographical failures affecting the discipline, drawing on key debates, such as the perceived over-emphasis on European and American photography, and the place of photography theory in contemporary art practice. Blurring the boundaries between traditional binaries of art and non-art photography, amateur and professional practice, and individual and corporate perspectives, Photography and Failure presents a new approach to understanding and evaluating photographic history.