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Reviews Our regular review section will feature some of the best new books, films, and sound recordings in southern studies. We also plan to review important new museum exhibits and public-history sites, and to offer occasional retrospectives on classic works that continue to shape our understanding of the region and its people. Our aim is to explore the rich diversity of southern life and of the methods and approaches of those who study it. Please write us to share your suggestions, or to add your name to our reviewer file. Pioneer Commercial Photography: The Bürgert Brothers of Tampa, Florida. By Robert E. Snyder and Jack B. Moore. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1992. 303 pp. Cloth, $39.95. Equal Before the Lens: Jno. Trlica's Photographs of Granger, Texas. By Barbara McCandless . College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1992. 196 pp. Hardback, $34.50. Reviewed by Jim Carnes, a Research Fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. He is currently editing a collection oftwentieth-century Mississippi photographs. By the late nineteenth century, virtually every Main Street in the United States boasted a photographer's shingle. No longer did small-town newlyweds, graduates, and decorated veterans have to seek an itinerant cameraman or venture to a metropolis in order to declare themselves in the long gaze of posterity. The democratizing lens made portraiture, once the exclusive indulgence of wealthy patrons, an essential marker in the lives of ordinary individuals, families, and social alliances. Outside the studio—in the workplace, the show room, the sunny street—the camera brought an unprecedented immediacy and persuasiveness to advertising and civic publicity. Owing to inherent strictures of the craft and to centralized sources of equipment, materials, and training, as well as to the inherently modish nature of having a picture taken, these images exhibited a striking, if superficial, uniformity from region to region, and town to town. Decades later, whether preserved and documented in family albums and community archives or displayed anonymously on restaurant walls and in the bins of flea markets, they approximate collective memory. Because the stock-in-trade of early commercial photography was the fulfillment of discrete, even random assignments dictated by a motley clientele, the photographer in effect forfeited proprietorship of the resulting images to their commissioners. For these 108Southern Cultures patrons, what special skill or flair the photographer brought to the work was of interest only insofar as it addressed the predetermined, often prosaic requirements of the commission . The portrait photographer likewise worked within a narrow scope, confining any artistic impulses to those that would enhance the "likeness." Consequently, except in the sense of the self-promotional portfolio, the concept of "bodies of work" by early commercial photographers has been slow to emerge. Two recent books demonstrate the potential challenges and rewards of examining these collections of images as cultural artifacts. In Pioneer Commercial Photography, Snyder and Moore present some 215 plates made primarily between 1919 and 1946 by Bürgert Brothers Studio of Tampa. Four essays—surveying the history of commercial photography in the United States and in Florida, the region's economic development, the cast of characters in the large Bürgert photographic dynasty, and the operation of the studio itself— accompany the photographs. McCandless's book, Equal Before the Lens, contains 97 plates (and a number of supplementary images used as text illustrations) from the camera ofJno. Trlica, who worked in the central Texas town of Granger from 1902 to 1955. The essays in this case, again four, treat the background and early career of Trlica, the public life of Granger, the town's underlying ethnic and economic tensions, and the photographer's relationship with his portrait subjects. Each of the books includes an extensive bibliography . Both volumes are handsomely produced, with good reproduction of the photographs . Fortunately for both projects, the photographers' own documentation of images was systematic and informative. Beyond these structural similarities, however, comparison of the two books yields instructive distinctions between the photographers themselves, the authors' approaches to their subjects, and the presentation of the work. Erstwhile traveling tintypist Samuel Bürgert of Ohio, his wife, and their four sons arrived in Tampa, by way of a brief...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 107-110
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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