Training the eye of the photographer: the education of the amateur


Cross, Karen 2007. Training the eye of the photographer: the education of the amateur. Thesis University of East London
AuthorsCross, Karen

Increasing interest has been paid to amateur forms of photography from within a range of
disciplines including the social sciences, cultural studies and art, but still unresolved is
how best to account for amateur photography and its cultural significance. In this thesis I
critically review how amateur photography has been defined, arguing that the absence of
an adequate account stems from an insufficient engagement with the historical cultural
divisions between photographic practices, and from a more recent tendency to aestheticise
amateur productions. Against such absences and tendencies, I offer a historically and
sociologically grounded analysis of the meaning-making practices in which amateurs are
In responseto the lack of historical perspective on the social processes of distinction in
photography, I provide a critical account of the parallel developments of amateur
photography and professionalism towards the end of the nineteenth century, including the
rise of photography education. Rather than simply argue that there is a distinction between
amateur and professional photography, I also show how they intersect in photography
education. I consider how an abstracted notion of professionalism is formulated within
'serious' amateur education courses which draw on earlier discourses of commercial and
art practice to legitimise a particular technical/aesthetic vision in photography.
Through first-hand observations I explore the variousm ethodsb y which studentsa cquire
andn egotiatet his professional language of photography. Rather than focusing simply on
amateur productions, my analysis incorporates an assessment of curriculum and teaching,
but also includes students' own accounts of photography. The meaning of photography is
transformed through the processes of education from a social to an aesthetic one, but the
foreclosure of amateur ways of seeing is never complete because students continue to
articulate a familial relationship to photography. My study underscores the
methodological value of focusing on the accounts of photography given by amateurs
rather than privileging expert professional or artistic knowledges. Through such an
approach the significance of photography within the sphere of the amateur is realised.

Keywordsamateur photography; critical review
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Deposited10 May 2011
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This thesis supplied via ROAR to UEL-registered users is protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights, and duplication of any part of the material is not permitted, except for your personal use for the purposes of non-commercial research and private study in electronic or print form. You must obtain permission from the copyright-holder for any other use. Electronic or print copies may not be offered, for sale or otherwise, to anyone. No quotation from the thesis may be published without proper acknowledgement.

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