150 years of American photography come alive in this exciting new book, placing it in its cultural context for the first time. Orvell examines this fascinating subject through a wide range of well known and less-well known images. He ranges from portraiture and landscape photography, family albums and memory, and analyses the particularly 'American' way in which American photographers have viewed the world around them.
Orvell combines a clear overview of the changing nature of photographic thinking and practice in this period with an exploration of key concepts. The result is the first coherent history of American photography, which examines issues such as the nature of photographic exploitation, experimental techniques, the power of the photograph to shock, and whether we should subscribe to the notion of a visual history.
Photography is a profoundly influential medium, as it traverses language barriers, molds perceptions, and shapes human memory. With such capabilities in mind, Orvell (The Real Thing) presents a study of American photography that carefully considers the medium's significance as a self-reflexive mode of discovery and its consequence to historical documentation and national identity. He deftly examines our nation's early mythmaking and contemporary myth-destroying tendencies, our initial exploratory inclinations, and the perennial concern with the connection between photography and truth, particularly in relation to the media. Orvell approaches the subject chronologically but traces, within this linear framework, the thematic and technological complexities distinctive to each period. Throughout, Orvell's helpful sidebars highlight important technological processes, vocabulary, and movements. The conclusion of the book contains a time line of the development and evolution of photography on technological, social, and artistic levels. Also included is a guide to web sites providing further field-specific information. A fantastic survey-length complement to Robert Taft's Photography and the American Scene, which specifically examines photography in the 1800s, this book is recommended for all collections concentrating on photography, cultural studies, and even American history.-Savannah Schroll, formerly with Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.