- Wyoming Revisited: Rephotographing the Scenes of Joseph E. Stimson by Michael A. Amundson
By Michael A. Amundson. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2014. vii + 386 pp. Photographs, bibliography, index. $29.95 cloth.
“Then and Now” themes that compare photographs made over time have become common in the book industry. What makes Wyoming Revisited by Michael Amundson stand out is the quality of the research done both in and out of the field.
The book details a century of physical and cultural change in the state of Wyoming through a series of photographs made at three different times. The photographs are accompanied by texts providing historical context. The book’s author, a professor of history at Northern Arizona University, made two series of photographs, one in 1987–88, the other in 2007–8.These repeat the earlier work of photographer Joseph E. Stimson made circa 1903. The book’s plate section combines reproductions from these three time periods in side-by-side placement. Foldout pages give viewers a chance to see the many larger panoramic images in closer detail. Altogether 117 sites were revisited, depicting towns, plains, and mountains.
Equally important to this book are the texts in five chapters. These are extensive essays about the history of Wyoming; Stimson, the original photographer and early booster of the state; Wyoming’s position relative to larger issues of regional history; the differences between public and private lands and their evident changes; and the practice of re-photography itself. Amundson recognizes that rephotography is a personal endeavor, and demonstrates that it can provide insight into a place and the way it has been represented. [End Page 402] He uses the process of locating and repeating historic photographs as means to access and communicate stories. These stories are often fascinating and not explicit in the pictures themselves. Combined with the photographs, the texts weave both a micro and macro portrait of Wyoming. The photographs show the details of each location, but the larger portrait places the state within western and global history. Amundson ultimately describes a landscape influenced by global issues such as energy production, capitalism, and climate change.
The book’s epilogue considers the changing technology that has made it possible to use photography as a method for documenting place. Much of this has been parsed before in photographic circles, but it arrives at an important conclusion: that photography is an essential tool of historical narrative. That’s what this book is particularly good at—telling the story of a changing Wyoming through the eyes of two photographers. [End Page 403]
Arizona State University