From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Conceptual photography as a part of conceptual art is a photography genre in which the artist makes a photograph of a concept or idea. Usually the conception of the idea precedes the realization of the photography. This kind of photography often involves use of computer editing to achieve the desired effects, but many artists work without the computer. They "put in place" the things and the beings that will be the subject of the final photograph, and the placement of those things and beings "build" the concept, the idea, and the final outcome, as for example the famous Judy Dater's conceptual photograph "Imogen and Twinka".
Some famous conceptual artists include Eugène Atget, Man Ray with his photographic technique of solarization, Irving Penn, Cindy Sherman with her critical self-portraits, Herb Ritts with his "new Greek sculpture", and Andreas Gursky and his "enormous photographs". All of them use different kinds of setting of the objects and beings in their own photo-artworks with the intention of showing philosophical ideas or feelings.
Eugène Atget was one of the pioneers of conceptual photography. His famous work "Avenue des Gobelins" shows three mannequins in a window-shop; one of which is seen to be alive upon close inspection. Inside the shop between the two mannequins there is a man that wears the same clothes as the mannequins, has the same rigid posture. This can be interpreted as an allegory of modern civilization, representing the uniformity imposed on individuals by clothing.
Le violon d'Ingres is a well known photo-artwork by Man Ray. It depicts a female nude with two f-holes of a violin on her back. The photo is possibly conveying the beauty of the human form. Man Ray was also the master of solarization. One of the most prominent of Man Ray's solarization works is "Julie et Margaret". The effect of the solarization turns the body of two women into two black contours, possible conveying the idea of depersonalization of the individual in modern society.
Cindy Sherman became famous with her conceptual portraits, most of which are self-portraits intended to look like movie stills. Sherman's series of photographs, "Untitled Film Stills" is a line of self-portraits in which Cindy "plays" different roles, depicting the fantasy of popular culture.