What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images

What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images Review

Why do we have such extraordinarily powerful responses toward the images and pictures we see in everyday life? Why do we behave as if pictures were alive, possessing the power to influence us, to demand things from us, to persuade us, seduce us, or even lead us astray?

According to W. J. T. Mitchell, we need to reckon with images not just as inert objects that convey meaning but as animated beings with desires, needs, appetites, demands, and drives of their own. What Do Pictures Want? explores this idea and highlights Mitchell's innovative and profoundly influential thinking on picture theory and the lives and loves of images. Ranging across the visual arts, literature, and mass media, Mitchell applies characteristically brilliant and wry analyses to Byzantine icons and cyberpunk films, racial stereotypes and public monuments, ancient idols and modern clones, offensive images and found objects, American photography and aboriginal painting. Opening new vistas in iconology and the emergent field of visual culture, he also considers the importance of Dolly the Sheep—who, as a clone, fulfills the ancient dream of creating a living image—and the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11, which, among other things, signifies a new and virulent form of iconoclasm.

What Do Pictures Want? offers an immensely rich and suggestive account of the interplay between the visible and the readable. A work by one of our leading theorists of visual representation, it will be a touchstone for art historians, literary critics, anthropologists, and philosophers alike.

  “A treasury of episodes—generally overlooked by art history and visual studies—that turn on images that ‘walk by themselves’ and exert their own power over the living.”—Norman Bryson, Artforum

Title:What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images
Edition Language:English

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    What Do Pictures Want?: The Lives and Loves of Images Reviews

  • Trevor

    I started reading this book quite a few months ago, but other things became urgent and got in the way. All the same, I was determined to get back to it and had even sent my daughter a quote from the s...

  • Adrienne

    My biggest problem with this book was the author's credibility. I'm sorry but when you contradict yourself because you're trying to make religion look bad (but then finally admit that it wasn't the wa...

  • Robert

    This writer is really interesting and really solid. The problem with this book is it is a bunch of discrete essays / chapters / catalog essays rather than a coherent arguments. My favorites were the i...

  • Katie

    I just listened to him talk about this book in an old Bad at Sports. ...

  • Margaryta

    I think Mitchell's essays will become a staple for me going forward, regardless of whether or not I end up pursuing a path in academia. "What Do Pictures Want" offers a very broad yet specific look at...

  • Ral

    Un libro lleno de ideas y de acertadas precisiones sobre la cultura de la imagen que vivimos, así como una reflexión sobre el hecho de la imagen y sus efectos en el individuo y en la sociedad....

  • Krystl Louwagie

    2007 review:I actually only read part one of this book. There are 3 parts. I do plan on reading all parts someday though because I found the first part interesting (in parts-other parts too hard to gr...

  • Ellie

    Had a hard time getting through the first half of this book, then the second half things got more specific, discussing actual mediums, works of art etc. I finished it about a week ago, and find the id...

  • David

    I didn't read every one of his essays/chapters but Mitchell presents an interesting argument on the wants of images, rather than the meaning of images. It is a compelling piece of visual culture studi...

  • Jen

    Sometimes the concepts required re-reading and extensive thought in various contexts, however the style was very readable and the ideas most interesting. The author is both likable and respectable as ...