It is quite possible that I would have never started this blog if Susan Bright’s Art Photography Now had been available a few years back. With the exception of Charlotte Cotton’s The Photograph as Contemporary Art Art Photography Now is maybe the only comprehensive book that will offer you an excellent introduction to contemporary photography.
Instead of offering a mere selection of photographers, something that would have people immediately nag about their favourites missing, Art Photography Now is organized around subject areas such as “Portraits”, and for each such subject area, the reader is introduced to how some photographers approached the topic. The German in me certainly applauds this kind of structure, but the non-German bits in me also do think that this kind of organization does make a lot of sense: I cannot think of an easier way to show the breadth of contemporary photography.
Needless to say, the subject matters are hardly treated in a comprehensive fashion; but I think this is hardly detrimental. For example, Thomas Ruff’s portraits are not included, but you can find some of his other work elsewhere. I do have some minor reservations about the selection of photographers presented - it appears to be quite anglo-centric - but that’s OK. If one really wanted to address these minor issues the book would have at least thrice the size and would then be insanely expensive.
Published by Aperture, the print quality of the photos is outstanding, and luckily enough, the amount of text (especially of “art speak”, which often goes overboard in Aperture’s magazine) is just about right. I especially like that many of the photographers are quoted to explain their ideas and/or motivations.
In short, I’d recommend Art Photography Now to anyone interested in contemporary photography in a heartbeat. For all those “missing” photographers you can still always come back to this blog.