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Making Photography Matter

A Viewer's History from the Civil War to the Great Depression

Cara A. Finnegan

Photography became a dominant medium in mass culture starting in the late nineteenth century. As it happened, viewers increasingly used their reactions to photographs to comment on and debate public issues as vital as war, national identity, and citizenship. Cara A. Finnegan analyzes a wealth of newspaper and magazine articles, letters to the editor, trial testimony, books, and speeches produced by viewers in response to specific photos they encountered in public. From the portrait of a young Lincoln to images of child laborers and Depression-era hardship, Finnegan treats the photograph as a locus for viewer engagement and constructs a history of photography's viewers that shows how Americans used words about images to participate in the politics of their day. As she shows, encounters with photography helped viewers negotiate the emergent anxieties and crises of U.S. public life through not only persuasion but action, as well.

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Marfa Flights

Aerial Views of Big Bend Country

T. Lindsay Baker

Take an unforgettable sky excursion over Big Bend with photographer Paul Chaplo as he captures the shapes, textures, and colors of the craggy, weathered landforms people usually see only from the ground—and some places no photographer has gone before. Flying from Marfa, and hanging precariously from the open door of an aircraft, Chaplo shares a hawk's eye view of a fiercely beautiful region, revealing the stark and magnificent landscapes carved by the force of eons of wind and water on the arid, mountainous country along the Rio Grande.

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Mathematicians

An Outer View of the Inner World

Mariana Cook

Mathematicians is a remarkable collection of ninety-two photographic portraits, featuring some of the most amazing mathematicians of our time. Acclaimed photographer Mariana Cook captures the exuberant and colorful personalities of these brilliant thinkers and the superb images are accompanied by brief autobiographical texts written by each mathematician. Together, the photographs and words illuminate a diverse group of men and women dedicated to the absorbing pursuit of mathematics.

The compelling black-and-white portraits introduce readers to mathematicians who are young and old, fathers and daughters, and husbands and wives. They include Fields Medal winners, those at the beginning of major careers, and those who are long-established celebrities in the discipline. Their candid personal essays reveal unique and wide-ranging thoughts, opinions, and humor, as the mathematicians discuss how they became interested in mathematics, why they love the subject, how they remain motivated in the face of mathematical challenges, and how their greatest contributions have paved new directions for future generations. Mathematicians in the book include David Blackwell, Henri Cartan, John Conway, Pierre Deligne, Timothy Gowers, Frances Kirwan, Peter Lax, William Massey, John Milnor, Cathleen Morawetz, John Nash, Karen Uhlenbeck, and many others.

Conveying the beauty and joy of mathematics to those both within and outside the field, this photographic collection is an inspirational tribute to mathematicians everywhere.

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Maya Yucatán

An Artist's Journey

Phillip Hofstetter

Phillip Hofstetter first visited Yucatán in 1987 and was entranced, as much by the sheer physical beauty of the region as by the enduring character of the Maya people still inhabiting the region. For more than twenty years he has been documenting his travels in Yucatán and his professional collaboration with archaeological excavation projects there. His reflections on the Maya culture emphasize survival and adaptation, while images of ancient sites, the churches of the Franciscan mission period, and the ruined haciendas of the henequen period serve as physical reminders of the enduring ways in which the Maya have shaped the landscape of Yucatán over millennia.

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Meaningful Places

Landscape Photographers in the Nineteenth-Century American West

Rachel McLean Sailor

The early history of photography in America coincided with the Euro-American settlement of the West. This thoughtful book argues that the rich history of western photography cannot be understood by focusing solely on the handful of well-known photographers whose work has come to define the era. Art historian Rachel Sailor points out that most photographers in the West were engaged in producing images for their local communities. These pictures didn’t just entertain the settlers but gave them a way to understand their new home. Photographs could help the settlers adjust to their new circumstances by recording the development of a place—revealing domestication, alteration, and improvement.

The book explores the cultural complexity of regional landscape photography, western places, and local sociopolitical concerns. Photographic imagery, like western paintings from the same era, enabled Euro-Americans to see the new landscape through their own cultural lenses, shaping the idea of the frontier for the people who lived there.

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Mennonites in Texas

The Quiet in the Land

By Laura L. Camden and Susan Gaetz Duarte

With their distinctive head coverings, plain dress, and quiet, unassuming demeanor, the Mennonites are a distinctive presence within the often flamboyant and proud people of Texas. If you have seen them at a gas station, in a grocery store, or even at the Dallas–Fort Worth airport, you have probably taken note and wondered how they came to be there. In this photographic tour of two Texas Mennonite communities, separated by almost 450 miles, Laura L. Camden and Susan Gaetz Duarte introduce you to the Beachy Amish Mennonites of Lott, a small community of approximately 160 people in Central Texas, and the very different Mennonites of Seminole, a West Texas farming community of more than five thousand residents and five separate congregations, several of which still speak the Mennonite Low German. Spending more than a year getting to know the families, participating in day-to-day activities, and photographing the unique culture of the communities, Camden and Gaetz Duarte developed deep insight into not just the religious beliefs but the family relationships, role expectations, and daily routines of these people. Through their camera lenses, they offer others a touchingly intimate view of a unique lifestyle seldom experienced by outsiders. In a foreword, former governor Ann Richards identifies the book as part of both the long photographic tradition in Texas and the tradition of cultural and religious diversity in the state. Mark L. Louden’s introduction provides the historical backgrounds of Mennonites in Europe, their core beliefs, and their development into branches in North America. Dennis Carlyle Darling offers insightful comments on the photography that allows an intimate, respectful view of the people, their lifestyle, and their culture.

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Nacho Lopez, Mexican Photographer

John Mraz

Photographer Nacho López was Mexico’s Eugene Smith, fusing social commitment with searing imagery to dramatize the plight of the helpless, the poor, and the marginalized in the pages of glossy illustrated magazines. Even today, López’s photographs forcefully belie the picturesque exoticism that is invariably presented as the essence of Mexico. In Nacho López, Mexican Photographer, John Mraz offers the first full-length study in English of this influential photojournalist and provides a close visual analysis of more than fifty of López’s most important photographs. Mraz first sets López’s work in the historical and cultural context of the authoritarian presidentialism that characterized Mexican politics in the 1950s, the cult of wealth and celebrity promoted by Mexico’s professional photographers, and the government’s attempts to modernize and industrialize Mexico at almost any cost. Mraz skillfully explores the implications of López's imagery in this setting: the extent to which his photographs might constitute further victimization of his downtrodden subjects, the relationship between them and the middle-class readers of the magazines for which López worked, and the success with which his photographs challenged Mexico's economic and political structures. Mraz contrasts the photos López took with those that were selected by his editors for publication. He also compares López’s images with his theories about documentary photography, and considers López’s photographs alongside the work of Robert Capa, Dorothea Lange, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Sebastião Salgado. López’s imagery is further analyzed in relation to the Mexican Golden Age cinema inspired by Sergei Eisenstein, the pioneering digital imagery of Pedro Meyer, and the work of Manuel Álvarez Bravo, who Mraz provocatively argues was the first Mexican photographer to take an anti-picturesque stance. The definitive English-language assessment of Nacho López’s career, this volume also explores such broader topics as the nature of the photographic essay and the role of the media in effecting social change.

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National Camera

Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment

Roberto Tejada

In National Camera, Roberto Tejada offers a comprehensive study of Mexican photography from the early twentieth century to today, demonstrating how images have shaped identities in Mexico, the United States, and the borderlands where the two nations and cultures intersect—a place Tejada calls the shared image environment. The “problem” of photography in Mexico, Tejada shows, reveals cross-cultural episodes that are rife with contradictions, especially in the complex terms of cultural and sexual difference. Analyzing such topics as territory, sexuality, and social and ethnic relations in image making, Tejada delves into the work of key figures such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Edward Weston, Tina Modotti, Marius de Zayas, and Julien Levy, as well as the Agustín Víctor Casasola Archive, the Boystown photographs, and contemporary Mexican and Latina photo-based artists. From the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20 to the U.S.–Mexico borderlands of today, Tejada traces the connective thread that photography has provided between Mexican and U.S. American intellectual and cultural production and, in doing so, defines both nations.

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Nocturnes

Chris Faust

A prominent figure in the Twin Cities art scene, Chris Faust marks the essence of the changing Midwestern landscape by documenting common scenes in an uncommon way. Known for his spectacular panoramic work, Faust is also increasingly admired for his unique night photographs, where he quietly unveils a world we never noticed was there and when the darkest hours evoke a mood of mystery and surrealism. The palette of light and shadow heightens our senses by revealing the stillness and ambiguities of the landscape.

 

Nocturnes, a beautiful collection of more than seventy tritone photographs, is a visual record of our world as few ever see it: during the nighttime hours. Emphasizing the passage of time as well as the necessity for change, the images reflect our disappearing rural terrain, abandoned urban streets, and aging industrial spaces, recalling aspects of our culture that are quickly fading into the past.

 

With an affinity for certain old-world practices and tools, Faust works just with ambient light and uses no digital or electronic technology—only classic darkroom processing—allowing all the subtle textures and tones to emerge in his work. Faust’s photographs of the Midwest are shot in a panoramic format with wide, detailed images—spectacular in both their artistry and documentary impact.

 

Chris Faust, a resident of St. Paul, is one of Minnesota’s finest photographers. His award-winning images are widely collected and exhibited throughout the region and the country.

 

Joan Rothfuss is a writer and art historian who was curator of the Walker Art Center for more than seventeen years. She was coeditor of the Walker collection catalogue Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole.

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