'Criticizing Photographs' by Terry Barrett is a good book to start, if you want to develop or understand the photographic language commonly used to comment or critique photographs. As the publisher states, 'Criticizing Photographs' is a book that provides a basic framework and vocabulary concerning Description, Interpretation and Evaluation of a photograph – meaning that it provides a theoretical background and a methodology in order to approach and reflect upon a photograph in a critical way. Barrett's methodology of course, is not the only available approach to criticism but is surely a clear and helpful springboard aiming at beginning or advanced students of photography and at the same time at amateur or professional photographers who wish to improve their critical skills upon the subject.
A major advantage of this book is that Barrett includes a wide range of examples, written by various critics, illustrating diverse perspectives of reflecting upon a photograph. If we have to mention a con that is that the book's subtitle -'An introduction to understanding images'- is not entirely justified by the book's content which functions more as a tool, a guide or a framework and less as a deeper insight on the nature of image. Nevertheless, it is still a book worthy of reading!
About the book's author
Terry Barrett is Professor of Art Education, with a joint appointment in the Department of Art, at The Ohio State University, where he is the recipient of a distinguished teaching award for courses in criticism and aesthetics within education. He has authored four books: Interpreting Art: Reflecting, Wondering and Responding; Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary (2nd ed.); Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images (5th ed.); and Talking about Student Art. He edited the anthology Lessons for Teaching Art Criticism and he published articles in various journals (such as Aesthetic Education, Art Education, Exposure, Camera-Lucida, etc) and many chapters in edited books. He is an art critic in education for the Ohio Arts Council, consults museum education departments, juries exhibitions, and conducts workshops on studio critiques and writing.
Title: Criticizing Photographs. An introduction to understanding images.