We need theory

The first myth to dispel about ‘theory’ is the idea that we can do without it. There is no untheoretical way to see photography. While some people may think of theory as the work of reading difficult essays by European intellectuals, all practices presuppose a theory. Even someone who claims to be ‘against theory’ is, ironically, actually articulating a theoretical position on theory (albeit one that is far from new or very useful). Certainly theory can be difficult, but so is ice-skating to the novice. Like most things, theory becomes easier with practice; just like new words and concepts that inevitably belong to that discipline become easier with practice too.

Davit Bate, “Photography: The Key Concepts”. Oxford: Berg, 2009, p. 25.


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