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220 × 190 × 19 mm
224 pages
115 illustrations, 55 in colour
01 May 2017
  • £19.95

Photography and Germany Andrés Mario Zervigón

The meeting of photography and Germany evokes pioneering modernist pictures from the Weimar era and colossal digital prints that define the medium’s art practice today. It also recalls horrifying documents of wartime atrocity and the relentless surveillance of East German citizens. Photography and Germany broadens these perceptions by examining photography’s multi-faceted relationship with Germany’s turbulent cultural, political and social history. It shows how many of the same phenomena that helped generate the country’s most recognizable photographs also led to a range of lesser-known pictures that similarly documented or negotiated Germany’s cultural identity and historical ruptures.

The book rethinks the photography we commonly associate with the country by focus­ing on how the medium heavily defined the notion of ‘German’. As a product of the modern age, photography intervened in a fraught project of national imagining, largely productively but sometimes catastrophically. Photography and Germany covers this history chronologically, from early experiments in light-sensitive chemicals to the tension between analogue and digital technologies that have stimulated the famous contemporary art photography associated with the country.

Richly illustrated with many previously unpublished images, this is the first single-authored history of German photography.

‘The Exposures series is carefully commissioned to achieve the surprisingly rare balance of offering an easily readable “text book” style approach to the medium’s multiple and complex histories and discourses, whilst simultaneously producing a specialist scholarly resource . . . ‘[Zervigón] brings an astute awareness of the political mobility of the photographic image to this nuanced, thorough account of photography in Germany . . . Zervigón’s book undoubtedly succeeds in offering an insightful, commendably readable and thoughtfully framed contribution.’ — Source Magazine

‘This astute and erudite narrative adroitly navigates the highly complex ground of photography in Germany since its early photograph-mad days to the present. While the editorial format limits in some ways the representation of the rich scholarship that continues to build around German photography, its merits are found in the brilliantly written overview of its subject. Essential reading for the scholar, student, and avid photography aficionado alike, Zervigón reveals through this monograph the ways in which photography mediates, narrates, and exposes the complexity of German history after 1839 and how the medium shaped the German nation and its identity.’ — History of Photography Journal

‘Zervigón set himself the ambitious goal of chronicling the different histories of photography associated with Germany over the past 175 years. Concisely written, well-structured and with a clear concept, Zervigón navigates this “sea of emulsion” in six chronologically ordered chapters, each introduced with a representative case study that leads on to a critical question . . . Zervigón convincingly argues that photography has been used to “perform the cultural work of national self-imagining” and is still part of contemporary reflections on the country’s troubled political and cultural history . . . a vividly written introductory tour de force through Germany’s cultural, social and political history as reflected in photography’s many faces throughout the last 175 years.’ — The Burlington Magazine

‘Zervigón has written the first English-language survey of the history of photographic practice in Germany from the medium’s beginnings to the present day . . . The book's core strength resides in the author’s focus on the uses made of photography during the many periods of social and political turmoil that mark Germany’s history. In no other nation have political events so directly impacted the history of the medium as in Germany, and – in consequence of the destruction and diaspora of modernist artists by the Nazis in the 1930s – those events have in turn impacted the history of the medium throughout the Western world. The writing is informed, insightful, and lucid, and the author presents photographs in the venues of high art, commerce, journalism, propaganda, and even personal albums. The book’s design is clean and provides a good platform for the 122 well-reproduced photographic illustrations. This is a valuable addition to the literature on photography. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘Zervigón is an exceptionally knowledgeable and sometimes inspired guide to the subject, skilfully weaving the history of Germany into the history of photography. The copious, high-quality illustrations are accompanied by writing of real panache, and the result not only represents an excellent introduction to the subject but includes enough original and little-known material – as well as fresh and provocative interpretations – to keep the expert engaged throughout. And one cannot ask for more than that from a book of less than forty thousand words.’ — Seminar: A Journal of Germanic Studies

‘While Photography and Germany is one of several in the series that explores photography in the context of a specific nation, Zervigón smartly chooses not to define a national photographic style. The inchoate and conflicted nature of German nationhood during most of the medium’s history complicates any attempt to identify what is German about German photography. And the breathtaking variety of the ways that photography has permeated modernity challenges the identification of features common to all photographic practices. Both the photographic medium and the German nation are too contested to define a stable relationship between them. Instead of presenting German photography as something consistent and visually recognizable, Zervigón incorporates an impressive range of photographic practices within each chronologically defined chapter – press photography, archival documents, film stills, amateur snapshots, and artistic practices all contribute to Zervigón’s complex presentation of Germany’s turbulent photographic history.’ — German Studies Review

‘The book at hand is an excellent introduction to German photography: carefully researched and well written. It is also superbly designed, printed and illustrated (with many broad sections in colour). Even the price of around 20 euros is sensational. Photography and Germany belongs in every good photography library . . . The author questions some of the apparent certainties of German photo history, challenging assumptions big and small.’ — Anton Holzer, editor of Fotogeschichte

‘Zervigón creates an engaging read by connecting his history with a vivid selection of pictures, most of them unfamiliar to his readers . . . A book like this, resplendent with strategically chosen, powerful imagery, is in itself a work of photomontage . . . Lately, nationalism is a vexed issue, and Zervigón’s book gives us a valuable photographic perspective against which to consider it.’ — On This Date in Photography

‘Delicately navigating the complex history of Germany, a nation state invented in the same century as photography, Andrés Mario Zervigón shows how photographic images have both buttressed and fissured that state ever since. Addressing vernacular and artistic photographs with equal aplomb, Zervigón offers a welcome overview of German photography that will be essential reading for anyone interested in this topic.’ — Geoffrey Batchen, Professor of Art History, Victoria University of Wellington, and author of Burning with Desire: Conception of Photography

‘Through a powerful interpretation of outstanding examples, Andrés Mario Zervigón provides an exciting narrative of Germanys troubled encounter with modernity. A brilliantly written survey which is both an indispensable introduction into the history of German photography and a significant contribution to our understanding of the manifold relationship between the medium and the German society.’ — Steffen Siegel, Professor for the Theory and History of Photography at Folkwang University of the Arts, Essen

‘Photography can be an agent of memory and history, giving shape to conflictual understandings of national identity. Photography AND Germany persuasively juxtaposes the fractured history of modern Germany and the multi-layered evolution of German photography in politics and the arts, the public and the private sphere. An eminently readable book and a model analysis of the rise and the effects of a visual medium once it had begun to saturate everyday life.’ — Andreas Huyssen, Villard Professor of German and Comparative Literature, Columbia University, and author of Miniature Metropolis: Literature in an Age of Photography and Film

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Andrés Mario Zervigón is Professor of the History of Photography at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. His previous books include John Heartfield and the Agitated Image: Photography, Persuasion, and the Rise of Avant-garde Photomontage (2012) and Photography and Its Origins (co-edited with Tanya Sheehan, 2014).