Snaps! Bourdieu and the Field of Photographic Art

By Cheryl Hardy and Michael Grenfell.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This article forms part of an ongoing body of work where the authors apply the theoretical perspective and conceptual approach of the French social theorist Pierre Bourdieu to a range of artistic field contexts (see, for example, Grenfell and Hardy 2003), Grenfell & Hardy 2007, Hardy & Grenfell 2006, and Hardy 2009). These studies have employed Bourdieu’s three-level approach to field analysis in order to tease out the relationship between individual artists’ practice, their immediate cultural environment and relations to other fields such the political and commercial. In the current article, we address the field of photography; in particular focussing on the relationship between the photographic field, its legitimate institutions and its agents, and photographers themselves.

First, the article briefly addresses Bourdieu’s ‘thinking tools’. It then considers some of his own photographs and their relationships to the context of Algeria and Béarn in late 1950s in order to show how photography featured in his own work and his studies of the photographic field. We do this to set a methodological baseline. The case of Roger Fenton, an early British pioneer in photography, is then discussed in order to demonstrate how individual habitus, field context and photographic image are intimately linked. Finally, we offer further examples of C20 photographers in order to extend the exploration of the relationship between their lived experiences, the photographs they took and the social and political context of the time.

Keywords: Photography, Habitus, Field Dynamics, Theory of Practice

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.49-62. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.307MB).

Dr. Cheryl Hardy

Director, Continuing Professional Development, Faculty of Education, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire, UK

Michael Grenfell

Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, School of Education, Trinity College, University of Dublin, Southampton, Ireland


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