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From James Agee to W. G. Sebald, there has been an explosion of modern documentary narratives and fiction combining text and photography in complex and fascinating ways. However, these contemporary experiments are part of a tradition that stretches back to the early years of photography. Writers have been integrating photographs into their work for as long as photographs have existed, producing rich, multilayered creations; and photographers have always made images that incorporate, respond to, or function as writing. On Writing with Photography explores what happens to texts—and images—when they are brought together.
From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, this collection addresses a wide range of genres and media, including graphic novels, children’s books, photo-essays, films, diaries, newspapers, and art installations. Examining the works of Herman Melville, Don DeLillo, Claude McKay, Man Ray, Dare Wright, Guy Debord, Zhang Ailing, and Roland Barthes, among others, the essays trace the relationship between photographs and “reality” and describe the imaginary worlds constructed by both, discussing how this production can turn into testimony of personal and collective history, memory and trauma, gender and sexuality, and ethnicity.
Together, these essays help explain how writers and photographers—past and present—have served as powerful creative resources for each other.
Contributors: Stuart Burrows, Brown U; Roderick Coover, Temple U; Adrian Daub, Stanford U; Marcy J. Dinius, DePaul U; Marianne Hirsch, Columbia U; Daniel H. Magilow, U of Tennessee, Knoxville; Janine Mileaf; Tyrus Miller, U of California, Santa Cruz; Leah Rosenberg, U of Florida; Xiaojue Wang, U of Pennsylvania.
Dams, Postcards, and the American Landscape
In Pastoral and Monumental, Donald C. Jackson chronicles America’s longtime love affair with dams as represented on picture postcards from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Through nearly four hundred images, Jackson documents the remarkable transformation of dams and their significance to the environment and culture of America. Initially, dams were portrayed in pastoral settings on postcards that might jokingly proclaim them as “a dam pretty place.” But scenes of flood damage, dam collapses, and other disasters also captured people’s attention. Later, images of New Deal projects, such as the Hoover Dam, Grand Coulee Dam, and Norris Dam, symbolized America’s rise from the Great Depression through monumental public works and technological innovation. Jackson relates the practical applications of dams, describing their use in irrigation, navigation, flood control, hydroelectric power, milling, mining, and manufacturing. He chronicles changing construction techniques, from small timber mill dams to those more massive and more critical to a society dependent on instant access to electricity and potable water. Concurrent to the evolution of dam technology, Jackson recounts the rise of a postcard culture that was fueled by advances in printing, photography, lowered postal rates, and America’s fascination with visual imagery. In 1910, almost one billion postcards were mailed through the U.S. Postal Service, and for a period of over fifty years, postcards featuring dams were “all the rage.” Whether displaying the charms of an old mill, the aftermath of a devastating flood, or the construction of a colossal gravity dam, these postcards were a testament to how people perceived dams as structures of both beauty and technological power.
Picturing Human-Feline Ties 1890-1940
The Photographed Cat presents readers with an examination of how human-cat relationships are depicted in early twentieth-century photography. Examining this relationship from the perspective of the photographer and the human subjects who made or appear in these photographs, Arluke and Rolfe show that the cat photographs are valuable windows into sets of cultural values that may have existed at the time.
Beggar, Freak, Citizen, & Other Photographic Rhetoric
Bogdan and his collaborators have studied thousands of historical photographs of people with disabilities in writing this book. Their work shows how people with disabilities have been presented but in a much wider range than we have ever seen before.
Civility in Asian American Visual Culture
At the heart of the model minority myth—often associated with Asian Americans—is the concept of civility. In this groundbreaking book, Picturing Model Citizens, Thy Phu exposes the complex links between civility and citizenship, and argues that civility plays a crucial role in constructing Asian American citizenship.
Featuring works by Arnold Genthe, Carl Iwasaki, Toyo Miyatake, Nick Ut, and others, Picturing Model Citizens traces the trope of civility from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Through an examination of photographs of Chinese immigrants, Japanese internment camps, the Hiroshima Maidens project, napalm victims, and the SARS epidemic, Phu explores civility's unexpected appearance in images that draw on discourses of intimacy, cultivation, apology, and hygiene. She reveals how Asian American visual culture illustrates not only cultural ideas of civility, but also contests the contradictions of state-defined citizenship.
Hubble Space Telescope Images and the Astronomical Sublime
The vivid, dramatic images of distant stars and galaxies taken by the Hubble Space Telescope have come to define how we visualize the cosmos. In their immediacy and vibrancy, photographs from the Hubble show what future generations of space travelers might see should they venture beyond our solar system. But their brilliant hues and precise details are not simply products of the telescope’s unprecedented orbital location and technologically advanced optical system. Rather, they result from a series of deliberate decisions made by the astronomers who convert raw data from the Hubble into spectacular pictures by assigning colors, adjusting contrast, and actively composing the images, balancing the desire for an aesthetically pleasing representation with the need for a scientifically valid one.
In Picturing the Cosmos, Elizabeth A. Kessler examines the Hubble’s deep space images, highlighting the remarkable resemblance they bear to nineteenth-century paintings and photographs of the American West and their invocation of the visual language of the sublime. Drawing on art history and the history of science, as well as interviews with astronomers who work on the Hubble Heritage Project, Kessler traces the ways that the sublime, with its inherent tension between reason and imagination, not only forms the appearance of the images, but also operates on other levels. The sublime informs the dual expression—numeric and pictorial—of digital data and underpins the relevance of the frontier for a new era of exploration performed by our instruments rather than our bodies. Through their engagement with the sublime the Hubble images are a complex act of translation that encourages an experience of the universe as simultaneously beyond humanity’s grasp and within the reach of our knowledge.
Strikingly illustrated with full-color images, this book reveals the scientific, aesthetic, and cultural significance of the Hubble pictures, offering a nuanced understanding of how they shape our ideas—and dreams—about the cosmos and our places within it.
Beautifully illustrated, Portrait Photography in Africa offers new interpretations of the cultural and historical roles of photography in Africa. Twelve leading scholars look at early photographs, important photographers’ studios, the uses of portraiture in the 19th century, and the current passion for portraits in Africa. They review a variety of topics, including what defines a common culture of photography, the social and political implications of changing technologies for portraiture, and the lasting effects of culture on the idea of the person depicted in the photographic image.
An Intimate Look at a Great American City
Through a unique partnership model with forty-five community organizations, the Detroit Institute of Arts' 2012 community photography exhibit "Reveal Your Detroit" offered Detroit residents the chance to respond to the Museum's contemporary photography exhibition Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010. Using disposable cameras, each participant captured people, places, and things that make their lives in Detroit distinctive, inspired by the questions "what does your Detroit look like?" and "how do you want others to see it?". In the final display, over 1,700 images rotated across 60 digital photo frames, from a selection of over 10,000 submitted. For this volume, author Bradford Frost has selected 200 images from the exhibit to showcase the perspectives of hundreds of residents and the places they presented, from the gritty to the sublime. Reveal Your Detroit is composed of two main sections-The Authentic City and Detroit's Vital Transformation-photo essays that evoke Detroit's spirited resolve and response to the dominant imagery of the city in decline. Photographers visit favorite Detroit sites like Eastern Market, the Detroit Riverfront, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Comerica Park, Michigan Central Station, and the Fox Theater; but they also highlight lesser known spots, like the cobblestone streets of West Canfield in Midtown, Hostel Detroit in Corktown, and the Central Business District Community Garden Downtown. Photos highlight Detroit's vibrant street and folk art, the diversity of the city's natural environment, and the vitality of residents and businesses in a range of city neighborhoods. The participating community groups are introduced in short text sections throughout the book and credited in the captions of each photo they submitted. Frost concludes with a personal section containing snapshots of a few of his own Detroit highlights. Reveal Your Detroit is not only a beautiful gift book and record of a transforming American city, it is also a testament to the possibilities of creative partnership between grassroots organizations and larger cultural institutions. Anyone with roots in Detroit or an interest in community-based art will appreciate the multilayered picture created by Reveal Your Detroit.
Louisiana Plantations in 1926
One of the finest architectural photographers in America, Robert W. Tebbs produced the first photographic survey of Louisiana’s plantations in 1926. From those images, now housed in the Louisiana State Museum, and not widely available until now, 119 plates showcasing fifty-two homes are featured here. Richard Anthony Lewis explores Tebbs’s life and career, situating his work along the line of plantation imagery from nineteenth-century woodcuts and paintings to later twentieth-century photographs by John Clarence Laughlin, among others. Providing the family lineage and construction history of each home, Lewis discusses photographic techniques Tebbs used in his alternating panoramic and detail views. A precise documentarian, Tebbs also reveals a poetic sensibility in the plantation photos. His frequent emphasis on aspects of decay, neglect, incompleteness, and loss lends a wistful aura to many of the images—an effect compounded by the fact that many of the homes no longer exist. This noticeable vacillation between objectivity and sentiment, Lewis shows, suggests unfamiliarity and even discomfort with the legacy of slavery. Poised on the brink of social and political reforms, Louisiana in the mid-1920s had made significant strides away from the slave-based agricultural economy that the plantation house often symbolized. Tebbs’s Louisiana plantation photographs capture a literal and cultural past, reflecting a burgeoning national awareness of historic preservation and presenting plantations to us anew. Select plantations included: Ashland/Belle Helene, Avery Island, Belle Chasse, Belmont, Butler-Greenwood, L’Hermitage, Oak Alley, Parlange, René Beauregard House, Rosedown, Seven Oaks, Shadows-on-the-Teche, The Shades, and Waverly.