From the list on American photography.
Who am I?
I am a hopeless photographer. But I have a passion for looking at photographs, for trying to understand how good ones work. They are not just momentary slices of life but structured artefacts, sometimes technically interesting, that in myriad ways reflect the society that produced them. I studied aspects of US cultural history at three universities. After devoting the first part of my academic career to American literature, in the second half – during which, supported by wonderful fellowships, I spent much time rooting in archives – I gave myself up to American photography. I have learnt much from each of the books I commend here.
Mick's book list on American photography
Discover why each book is one of Mick's favorite books.
Why did Mick love this book?
The late Alan Trachtenberg (he died in 2020) did more than any other scholar or critic to further our understanding of photographs as cultural documents. This book – probing, detailed yet precise, and endlessly interesting – is his masterpiece. The chapters devoted to Civil War photographs and to American Photographs (1938), the extraordinary photobook produced by artist Walker Evans, are especially powerful. There is a sense in which the books I commend by other authors here – including my own The Grass Shall Grow (2020) -- would not be possible without Trachtenberg’s example.