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Gilles Mora, Photospeak: a guide to the ideas, movements and techniques of photography, 1839 to the present

A Review of Mora's new book on photography

Hard to say whether this is an exercise in wiseing-up or dumbing-down, depending whereabouts on the scale of really-need-to-know, only-want-to-seem-to-know or already-know, just-checking, one finds oneself. “The primary purpose of this compact guide is to distill [sic] into user-friendly entries the most essential information about photography while at the same time revealing new facets of its richly eclectic history.” From “Abstraction” to “Woodburytype”, there is no denying the usefulness of specialist information, nor denigrating the attraction of the encyclopaedic, quick reference approach, even if ultimately one must beg to differ (part of the fun of the game) with some of its definitions and implied judgements upon the importance of this or that school or movement and relative merits of its adherents. Withal, the perfect appetiser and Christmas stocking-filler for your average photo-buff and would-be collector, kultchur-fanatic or info-freak, indispensable resource for broadsheet, seriously in the know, glossy mag, art journalists and required reading for arts administrators.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as "Gilles Mora, Photospeak: a guide to the ideas, movements and techniques of photography, 1839 to the present (Abbeville Press, New York, 1998), 216 pp, 50 b/w ills, 13 col. ills, £20 (hb) ISBN 0789203707, £12.95 (pb) ISBN 0789200686"

Appeared in The Art Newspaper, 84 September 1998