As one of a small band of photographers who founded the UK's first radical photo magazine Camerawork in 1976, this book comes as a rude reminder of what went wrong. Within a decade it had lost the plot, spiralling out of control in endless discoursing, analysing, theorising and criticising - to the point of paralysis. One of the book's contributors recalls that in the 1980s "quite a few of the most politically and theoretically 'advanced' photographers stopped taking pictures altogether. The act of photographing someone had been so analysed as a relation of power that it came to be experienced as politically impossible." A cruel joke.
The Camerawork Essays serves up some of the evidence. What had began as an alternative magazine by photographers for photographers is here edited in abstruse academic language as an anthology by scholars for scholars. Fourteen essays by twelve contributors. The editor, Jessica Evans, offers to "recover an historical understanding of Camerawork's motivation for encouraging a democratising practice in photography."
I was a co-editor for four years, at a time when the magazine was in its ascendancy. It's as an insider that I've been asked to comment, based on my experience. My remarks are about the anthology as a whole, not the individual texts.