Roland Barthes, one of photography’s most influential critics, once described the "trouble" introduced by the advent of photography. Studies of literature and photography tend to assess the literary effects of photography, with literature seen as the older, broader, more established cultural form, and photography the new, alien upstart. "Photography and Literature" instead reverses the angle of vision to examine photography’s encounters with literature from the point of view of photography, providing a new way of understanding its interplay with literature and the printed page.
Francois Brunet begins by showing how photography’s invention and its publication were shaped by written culture, both scientific and literary. In turn he examines its early and durable incarnation in the book format, the ongoing and often repetitive "discovery" of photography by writers, and, finally, how, in the twentieth century, photography and literature are seen to trade tools and even merge formats. He also focuses on writings by photographers, from William Henry Fox Talbot’s groundbreaking exploration of photography in "The Pencil of Nature" of the 1840s, to Raymond Depardon’s correspondence or Sophie Calle’s projects with Jean Baudrillard and Paul Auster. Ultimately, Brunet argues that the histories of photography and literature since 1840 have been drawing closer together, and that their convergence has provided recent writing with a new "photo-textual" genre.
Offering a wealth of examples from autobiography, manifestos and ?ction, and a fascinating variety of images from the mid-nineteenth century to the twenty-first, "Photography and Literature" will be of interest to anyone passionate about the historic relationship of text and image.
Francois Brunet is Professor of American Art and Literature at the University Paris Diderot – Paris 7, and is author of "La Naissance de l'idée de photographie" (2000), co-editor of "Images in the West: Survey Photographs in French Collections, 1860-1880" (2007), and a regular contributor to journals, including "Transatlantica", "Etudes Photographiques" and "Aperture".
"Brunet's beautifully illustrated study shows how, starting with the British pioneer William Fox Talbot, photography has shed this aura of objectivity to become a medium of individual expression. Today, photography is the 'new muse of literature' and it subverts the very reality its images were once thought to reflect with such veracity" – The Guardian
"It is the scope and enthusiasm with which Photography and Literature connects the literary impulse with photography's vision of the world that makes this book a welcome addition" – Source magazine
"It is extremely rare to discover a book that has such a profound knowledge of the Continental as well as the Anglo-Saxon traditions and history and that is so open to their respective cultures and sensibilities... Brunet’s book is innovative and insightful, and it helps clear the ground for a new approach of a much-debated issue. One can only hope that it will be widely read and discussed, both inside the field of photography studies and outside it, in the broader field of intermediality studies, and become rapidly a modern classic" – History of Photography
"This sumptuously illustrated volume... examines the shifting relationship between literature and photography from the latter’s invention in 1939 up to the present... a fascinating overview of the prolonged cultural encounters between visual and verbal texts and has the value of guiding the reader towards more specialized studies of this crucially important subject" – Modern Language Review
"As Brunet skillfully negotiates more than 150 years of photographic history, he offers a coherent argument for the emergence of photography as a kind of writing, with possibilities for narrative and fiction that exceed its promise to capture the world as it is" – The Wilson Quarterly
"There is much to praise in Francois Brunet’s recent book, Photography and Literature, not least being the intellectual courage and verve of the undertaking itself. It’s a daring book. The topic, immense and inchoate, at once invites and defies investigation... Brunet’s compelling book puts such challenging thoughts into motion, a handsome and significant achievement" – Transatlantica
"an excellent and thought-provoking read" – Metapsycology