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Reading American Photographs


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About the Author

Alan Trachtenberg, Neil Gray, Jr., Professor of English and American Studies at Yale University, is the author of The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age.


Trachtenberg's sophisticated discussion finds in American photographs a way of reading the past--``the past as culture, as ways of thinking and feeling, as experience.'' For this study he considers images originally edited as albums, books, or photo-stories. In such works as Mathew Brady's Gallery of Illustrious Americans, the Civil War albums of Alexander Gardner and George Barnard, Timothy O'Sullivan's Western survey photographs, Lewis Hine's social work projects and texts, and Walker Evans's American Photographs, he sees photographers trying to make sense of their society while seeking to create a role for photography as an American art. This impressive analysis, which employs social, cultural, and political history as well as art criticism, is highly recommended for American studies and photography collections. (Photographs not seen.) --Ann Copeland, Drew Univ. Lib., Madison, N.J.

"Brilliantly elucidates how an informed cultural historian sees and interprets American images through the camera's eye." --Daniel Aaron, Harvard

"Alan Trachtenberg's Reading American Photographs gives fresh and fascinating insights into the household names of phototgraphic history." --Cornell Capa

"A splendid book [written with] learning and intellectual passion . . . thoroughly gratifying." --Alfred Kazin

"This is a must read for those interested in culture and politics. He brilliantly interprets the past for thepresent." --Wanda M. Corn, Standford University

"As Mr. Trachtenberg concludes, 'It is not so much a new but a clarifying light American photographs shed upon American relaity.' That light, as he has richly demonstrated, now illuminates our past in inescapable and powerful ways." --Williams S. McFeely, The New York Times

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