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Focus on Playwrights Cover

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Focus on Playwrights

Portraits and Interviews

Susan Johann

In 1989 Susan Johann was hired to photograph Christopher Durang for a magazine article about his play Naomi in Her Living Room. The playwright was known for his outrageous comedy, so Johann anticipated a session with a rather wild, young eccentric. To her surprise, the man who came to her studio was mild mannered and buttoned down. Johann found this twist captivating, and it was then that this project was born. Over the ensuing twenty-year period, she photographed more than ninety playwrights, including many winners of the Pulitzer Prize and other prestigious awards. Johann photographed Wendy Wasserstein, Anna Deavere Smith, August Wilson, and Nilo Cruz in the weeks after they won the Pulitzer. Tony Kushner sat for his portrait between the productions of part 1 and part 2 of Angels in America. Eve Ensler came to Johann’s studio during the week she was previewing her famous one-woman show, The Vagina Monologues, and George C. Wolfe sat for her the morning after his play Spunk opened at the Public Theater. Each playwright was photographed in Johann’s studio using the same film, a single light, and a plain backdrop, creating a portrait that captures and distills something essential—an intimate view. Her interviews explore the writers’ personal and creative journeys including their inspirations, roadblocks, and obsessions, which influenced their work on paper and on the stage. Even those who know Edward Albee’s plays intimately, for example, may be surprised by his incisive wit and inimitable voice as revealed in his interview with Johann. Beyond the book, Focus on Playwrights is also a live, multimedia presentation in which Johann narrates an inside look at creativity—the theater and photography. It has been given at such venues as the New Dramatists in New York, the Eugene O’Neill Theater, the Tryon Fine Arts Center and at the Photo Expo in New York.

Fog at Hillingdon Cover

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Fog at Hillingdon

David K Langford

While fog does not come easily or frequently to Central Texas, when it does, it inspires moments of quiet and reflection. David Langford captures those moments here in stirring images of the comings and goings of fog on Hillingdon Ranch, family land that has benefited from the stewardship of six generations. These photographs in turn inspired an essay by writer Rick Bass that takes him back to his own memories of fog—in the Texas Hill Country and elsewhere.
Fog at Hillingdon includes a personal note by Langford on his techniques and camera equipment. Apt historic or contemporary quotations selected by Myrna Langford accompany many of the photographs and reflect the moods and sentiments fog often evokes.

Fruit of the Orchard Cover

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Fruit of the Orchard

Environmental Justice in East Texas

Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell. Essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, and Marvin Legator

In 1982, a toxic waste facility opened in the Piney Woods in Winona, Texas. The residents were told that the company would plant fruit trees on the land left over from its ostensible salt-water injection well. Soon after the plant opened, however, residents started noticing huge orange clouds rising from the facility and an increase in rates of cancer and birth defects in both humans and animals. The company dismissed their concerns, and confusion about what chemicals it accepted made investigations difficult. Outraged by what she saw, Phyllis Glazer founded Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (MOSES) and worked tirelessly to publicize the problems in Winona. The story was featured in People , the Houston Chronicle magazine, and The Dallas Observer . The plant finally closed in 1998, citing the negative publicity generated by the group. This book originated in 1994 when Cromer-Campbell was asked by Phyllis Glazer to produce a photograph for a poster about the campaign. She was so touched by the people in the town that she set out to document their stories. Using a plastic Holga camera, she created hauntingly distorted images that are both works of art and testaments to the damage inflicted on the people of a small Texas town by one company’s greed. In the accompanying essays, Phyllis Glazer describes the history of Winona and the fight against the facility; Roy Flukinger discusses Cromer-Campbell's striking photographic technique; Eugene Hargrove explores issues of environmental justice; and Marvin Legator elaborates on how industry and government discourage victims of chemical exposure from seeking or obtaining relief.

Generations in Black and White Cover

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Generations in Black and White

Photographs from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection

Carl Van Vechten

This portfolio of eighty-three photographs constitutes a stunning celebration of African American achievement in the twentieth century. Carl Van Vechten, a longtime patron of black writers and artists, took these photographs over the course of three decades—primarily as gifts to his subjects, such luminaries as W. E. B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Joe Louis, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Ruby Dee, Lena Horne, and James Earl Jones.

The photographs Rudolph P. Byrd has selected for this volume come from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection of Negro Arts and Letters, which Van Vechten established at Yale University. Byrd has arranged the images chronologically, according to the time at which each subject emerged as a vital presence in African American tradition.

Complementing the photographs are a substantial introduction by Byrd, biographical sketches of each subject, and poems by the noted writer Michael S. Harper. The result is a volume of beauty and power, a record of black excellence that will engage and inform new generations.

Hanging by a Thread Cover

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Hanging by a Thread

A Kite’s View of Wisconsin

This full-color book of photographs records Wisconsin from an unusual viewpoint: a camera suspended from a kite and controlled by photographer Craig M. Wilson from the ground. Taken from fifty to a few hundred feet in the air, Wilson’s photos capture natural and man-made views that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The result is a vibrant collection that captures Wisconsin in all its shifting beauty in landscapes and cityscapes, festivals, Door County’s lighthouses, Milwaukee’s neighborhoods, and the crowd at a Badger football game. Captions are provided in English, Spanish, German, and Mandarin Chinese.

Hillingdon Ranch Cover

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Hillingdon Ranch

Four Seasons, Six Generations

David K Langford

In 1885, San Antonio architect Alfred Giles began buying the land that would become Hillingdon Ranch, eventually accumulating 13,000 acres near the town of Comfort in Kendall County. As the property passed to succeeding generations, the holdings got smaller, and more family members shared a stake in the ranch. Today, dozens of Giles descendants own pieces of it, ranging in size from ten to several hundred acres.

Yet Hillingdon remains a working ranch, with day-to-day operations managed by Robin Giles, grandson of Alfred Giles; his wife, Carol; their son, Grant; and Grant’s wife, Misty. The cattle, sheep, and goat business they built has become a model of stewardship and sustainability. While managing family relationships can often be as complicated as managing livestock and forage, the ranch would not exist without the commitment of the large extended family, now in its sixth generation on the ranch.

Hillingdon Ranch: Four Seasons, Six Generations chronicles how one family has worked together over many years to keep their ranch intact. It is also a beautifully photographed portrait of a ranching family and their life in the Texas Hill Country, where work is guided by the seasons, increasingly influenced by technology, and inevitably affected by drought.

In learning about the family’s successes and challenges, readers will gain a greater appreciation of what the Giles family’s efforts mean to the rest of us: food, fiber, clean air, wildlife, healthy land, peace and quiet, and, perhaps most important of all, clean and plentiful water.

I Am Because We Are Cover

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I Am Because We Are

African Wisdom in Image and Proverb

Betty Press

I Am Because We Are features 125 black and white photographs by Betty Press taken all over East and West Africa since 1987, combined with related African proverbs compiled by Annetta Miller, an American born in Tanzania.

The book highlights the importance of proverbs in educating members of African societies on how to think, how to behave, and how to have a better life. Press took these photographs with the goal of making a significant educational and artistic contribution to the appreciation and understanding of African culture and society as well as our own.

The photographs of daily life deal with knowledge, cooperation, love, beauty, friendship, hope, humor, sorrow, happiness, gratitude, dance, tradition, faith, peace, war, death, and human relationships. These are the same themes found in African proverbial language. Thus came the natural idea of coupling images with proverbs. Together they offer a powerful expression of African life and the universality of human emotions, ideas, and knowledge.

Indiana Covered Bridges Cover

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Indiana Covered Bridges

Marsha Williamson Mohr. Foreword by Rachel Berenson Perry

A symbol of Indiana's past, the covered bridge still evokes feelings of nostalgia, romance, and even mystery. During the 19th century, over 500 of these handsome structures spanned the streams, rivers, and ravines of Indiana. Plagued by floods, fire, storms, neglect, and arson, today fewer than 100 remain. Marsha Williamson Mohr's photographs capture the timeless and simple beauty of these well-traveled structures from around the state, including Parke County—the unofficial covered bridge capital of the world. With 105 color photographs, Indiana's Covered Bridges will appeal to everyone who treasures Indiana's rich architectural heritage.

Into the Flatland Cover

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Into the Flatland

Kathleen Robbins

Capturing the rich contrasts of the land and the intimate history of generations in the Mississippi Delta, Into the Flatland, by Kathleen Robbins, is a series of photographs documenting the terrain, people, and culture of her ancestry. The photographer returned to her childhood farm in Bell Chase as an adult in 2001 after completing graduate studies in New Mexico. She and her brother then lived on their family farm for nearly two years, breathing life back into family properties that had been long dormant. In this series, which won the Photo-NOLA prize in 2011, Robbins highlights the diversity of the landscape of the Delta, from expansive, dusty cotton fields to green, vibrant swamps. Her photographs capture the people and the architecture that are present on the land and also reminiscent of a time long past, before the mechanization of farming and the exodus of her people from their native soil. The presence of Robbins’s family in some of her photographs brings an intimacy to her portrait of the Delta and shows the tension between past and present. Including a short story by a National Endowment for the Arts recipient, Cynthia Shearer, Into the Flatland transports the reader into the rich history of Mississippi. At turns both colorful and gray, the photographs capture not only the Delta landscape, but also the stark and rugged images of people and buildings that sink as deeply into the land as the roots of the trees in the woods and swamps. As large masses of birds flock to the vast blue sky, Robbins remains fixed on the ground, her lens trained on the home and the landscape of her past.

The Iowa State Fair Cover

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The Iowa State Fair

Kurt Ullrich

Every year in early August, a breeze borne by silent messengers from another time blows through Iowa. It carries a whiff of something wonderful, something far off and a bit unclear, yet oddly familiar. It's a reminder that an extraordinary annual event is about to take place, just as it has for more than 150 years: the Iowa State Fair.

In 2013, Kurt Ullrich set out to chronicle the magic of the Iowa State Fair in words and photographs. Join him as August days and nights blow warm and easy over the fairgrounds, brushing lightly against fellow travelers on this earth, both human and not. He captures precious moments of extreme joy and unbridled delight in these beautiful black-and-white images, celebrating the brash rural energy of the fair, from Big Wheel races to people-watching goats, fair queen contestants to arm wrestlers, Percherons to ponies. Prize pigs, prize sheep, prize apples, and the famous butter cow all have their moment in the limelight. Iowa’s very best ear of corn and old friends reminiscing outside their RVs draw the photographer’s fond eye, as do brightly lit beer stands and the brilliant arc of the Ferris wheel against the night sky.

If you always go to the Iowa State Fair, this book is for you. If you’ve never been, it will show you what you’re missing—and you’ll understand why it’s well past time you dropped by.

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