A Dream of England: Landscape, Photography, and the Tourist's Imagination

John Taylor, Author Manchester University Press $79.95 (295p) ISBN 978-0-7190-3723-8
Tourism as time-travel, an English landscape far more sinister than meets the eye and photographs as memento mori are the themes that dominate this work. Interpreting the use of photography over the past hundred years, British art historian Taylor engages in a mission of political correctiveness, following the Marxist credo that human activity can best be explained by the forces of oppressive economic and class structures. While there is little original theory (some of his observations are quoted from others, e.g., Susan Sontag), Taylor applies it to new areas and has done much detailed research into some valuable and overlooked elements of photographic history (notably Humphrey Spender and the Mass-Observation Project, the growth of Kodak in England and current British photographers). Excepting the photos of Martin Par, however, the gossipy details of the Fox Talbot Celebration digress, and the author's smugly intellectual tone resonates with the same, exclusive clubbishness he derides in the guidebooks sampled for this study. Synthesis is also lacking-analytical substantiation is replaced by persistent reiteration and the sub-topics do not mesh to a whole. Women will find that his ``gender-consciousness'' reaffirms stereotypes presumably discarded in the '60s. Nonetheless, it may well gain a place on politically correct, postmodern bookshelves. Illustrated. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/03/1994
Release date: 01/01/1994
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