The "Public" Life of Photographs

From RIC BOOKS (Ryerson Image Centre Books)

The "Public" Life of Photographs

Edited by Thierry Gervais

An exploration of the relationship between how photographs are made available to the public and how they are received and understood.





An exploration of the relationship between how photographs are made available to the public and how they are received and understood.

Do we understand a photograph differently if we encounter it in a newspaper rather than a book? In a photo album as opposed to framed on a museum wall? The “Public” Life of Photographs explores how the various ways that photographs have been made available to the public have influenced their reception. The reproducibility of photography has been the necessary tool in the creation of a mass visual culture. This generously illustrated book explores historical instances of the “public” life of photographic images—tracing the steps from the creation of photographs to their reception.

The contributors—international curators and scholars from a range of disciplines—examine the emergence of photography as mass culture: through studios and public spaces; by the press; through editorial strategies promoting popular and vernacular photography; and through the dissemination of photographic images in the art world. The contributing authors discuss such topics as how photographic images became objects of appropriation and collection; the faith in photographic truthfulness; Life magazine's traveling exhibitions and their effect on the magazine's “media hegemony”; and the curatorial challenges of making vernacular photographs accessible in an artistic environment.

The “Public” Life of Photographs is the first volume in a series called RIC Books, which is copublished by MIT Press and the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC). The RIC, located at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, is a museum dedicated to the exhibition, research, study and teaching of photography and related disciplines.

ContributorsGeoffrey Batchen, Nathalie Boulouch, Heather Diack, André Gunthert, Sophie Hackett, Vincent Lavoie, Olivier Lugon, Mary Panzer, Joel Snyder

Copublished with Ryerson Image Centre, Toronto


$35.00 T ISBN: 9780262035194 300 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 45 color illus., 45 b&w illus.


Thierry Gervais

Thierry Gervais is Associate Professor at the School of Image Arts and Head of Research at the Image Centre, both at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is the author, with Gaëlle Morel, of The Making of Visual News: A History of Photography in the Press, and the series editor of RIC Books, which he launched in 2016.


  • An excellent complement to any history of photography, this collection expands on two centuries of questions/answers about the making and using of photographs.

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