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Photography and Play

  • Erin C. Garcia

    Photography and leisure go hand in hand. Cameras are part of our everyday lives, but we are never more likely to take a picture or to be photographed than when we are at play. As recreation and entertainment flourished in the nineteenth century, so too did the new medium of photography. Cameras became increasingly accessible to amateurs and were quickly deemed an indispensable part of what it meant to have fun. Acting as social commentators, many artists also turned their attention to the subject of pleasure and entertainment, often observing how photography itself has changed the way we spend our free time.

    Photography and Play reveals the various ways that artists throughout photographic history have turned to topics as diverse as Victorian billiard players, Parisian barflies, moviegoers, sightseers, and suburban sunbathers. The book features over eighty photographs drawn from the collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum that span nearly 150 years of image making. The works included are by such noted artists as Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Brassaï, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Walker Evans, André Kertész, Bill Owens, Man Ray, Edward Steichen, Joel Sternfeld, Alfred Stieglitz, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand—all of whom documented people at play.

    The illuminating introductory essay traces the relationship between the growing importance of leisure over the past 150 years and the part that photography has played in changing how we see ourselves.

    Erin C. Garcia is an independent curator in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of Man Ray in Paris (Getty Publications, 2011) and Photography as Fiction (Getty Publications, 2010).

    “Kids are ingenious at thinking up ways to pass the days and, with little money but lots of time, at finding playful uses for quotidian objects. It’s no surprise that Photography and Play . . . is filled with young faces at carnivals and ballparks, picnicking and swimming. Yet the joy of childhood is better caught in images of kids dashing through an open fire hydrant on a sweltering day or flying down a hill on makeshift skateboards.”
    —The Wall Street Journal

    112 pages
    7 1/4 x 8 5/8 inches
    15 color and 83 b/w illustrations 
    ISBN 978-1-60606-107-7

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum