In 1993, Rebecca Bardon, then a commissioning editor for Media at Routledge, visited the University of the West of England (UWE) where I then worked as a lecturer. She was soliciting ideas for publications. In those days, it was standard practice for editors to visit institutions and attend academic conferences to seek out new authors and publishing proposals. She asked me what book would make a significant difference to teaching. Working with undergraduate students in graphic design (where film and photography were then based), I suggested a publication that would bridge the gap between survey histories and theoretical texts such as Victor Burgin’s edited collection Thinking Photography (1982). Some weeks later I received a type-written letter (remember those!) inviting me to submit an outline for such a book.

Concerned at the range of arenas, thinking and practices that it would have to encompass, I solicitated contributions from 2 other colleagues at UWE, Martin Lister and Derrick Price, and 2 further researchers, Patricia Holland and Anandi Ramamurthy. The first edition was published in 1996. Michelle Henning, then also at UWE, joined the team for the second edition, responding to a particular focus on the body in representation that emerged in the 1990s. In 2015 what had been a specific chapter on ‘Photography in the Age of Electronic Imaging’, the subject of fierce debates in the 1990s, especially as related to photojournalism, documentary and representational realism, was integrated within the other chapters; by then the digital had become normalised within photographic thinking. The strength of the publication is founded in the multiple voices and range of expertise that collectively we brought to the project. As editor, I have principal responsibility, but the book would not exist without my collaborators.

Thirty years later, I have a contract for a 7th edition. As a textbook it is widely used, especially in North America, it led me to become involved with the Society for Photographic Education (USA head-quartered). It has been translated into Greek (2008), Chinese (2012) and Korean (2016), leading to opening a conference in Cyprus (2010) and taking an exhibition to China (2014). In 2013 the Chinese version appeared on a hoarding advertisement for IKEA, which suggests that it was viewed as ‘trending’ at the time! Unfortunately, such translations happen only once. The Chinese version was based on the 4th edition, with its separate chapter on the digital, which must make the book appear extremely out of date! Meanwhile, primary social and ethical concerns for the new edition, due publication in 2026, include developments in social media and in AI (artificial intelligence) as manifest photographically. Watch this space!

In the interim, working with Routledge, since 2000 with Natalie Foster, Senior Publisher for Media & Culture, led to a further textbook publication, The Photography Reader, 2003, with, in 2019, a second iteration in two volumes, The Photography Reader, History and Theory and The Photography Culture Reader. They aim to support teaching through bringing together a range of essential essays for those serious about studying photography histories, politics, theoretical positions, and visual culture. Oddly, you might think, the readers are available in book form only. One reason for this is that the Barthes estate does not permit digital reproduction of his writings and given the significance of his contribution within twentieth century thought I was not prepared to publish a collection in which his work could not be represented. Second, there is something to be said for the physical, tactile object, a book, that collates diverse concerns and perspectives.


  • The Photography Reader, History and Theory, Routledge, 2019
  • The Photography Culture Reader Routledge, 2019
    The Photography Reader. Routledge, 2003

Editor and co-author

  • Photography: A Critical Introduction, Routledge, 6th edition 2021.
    Korean version, 2016; Chinese version, 2012; Greek version, 2008; 4th ed 2009; 3rd ed 2004; 2nd ed 2000 (shortlisted, The Reind M de Vries European Photography Prize 2001); 1st ed 1997. (7th edition commissioned for 2026)