Photography — Museum Books

Framing the West: The Survey Photographs of Timothy H. O'Sullivan

Few photographers have captured more compelling images of the untamed American West than Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Trained under Mathew Brady and Alexander Gardner, O’Sullivan accompanied two government surveys of the West in the 1860s and 1870s with geologist Clarence King and Lieutenant George M. Wheeler. Along these journeys, O’Sullivan produced photographs that exhibit a forthright and rigorous style formed in response to the landscapes he encountered. Faced with challenging terrain and lacking previous photographic examples on which to rely, O’Sullivan created a body of work that was without precedent in its visual and emotional complexities.

Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten

Author Carl Van Vechten (1880–1964) began making portraits in 1932. Over the next three decades, he asked writers, musicians, athletes, politicians, and others to sit for him—many of them central figures in the Harlem Renaissance. Harlem Heroes: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten features thirty-nine images of men and women who not only fueled the New Negro movement, but also transformed the broader American culture—including James Baldwin, Ossie Davis, W.E.B. Du Bois, Ella Fitzgerald, Althea Gibson, Langston Hughes, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Bessie Smith, and others. The book includes an essay by John Jacob and biographical sketches for each sitter.

American Photographs: The First Century from the Isaacs Collection in the National Museum of American Art

In the nineteenth century, people from all walks of life embraced the new medium of photography with unparalleled enthusiasm. For artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse, it was “one of the beauties of the age.” Edgar Allan Poe hailed photography as “the most important, and perhaps the most extraordinary triumph of modern science.” Here was a medium, it was proposed, that could serve as a mirror of nature, suggesting new possibilities to artists. For the average citizen, less concerned with art or science, the medium offered a satisfying way to record his or her private world—family, friends, homes, and farms.

In Search of the Corn Queen: American Scene series, No.1

Greta Pratt returns to the county fairs of her childhood in the American Midwest, creating photographs that capture the spirit of rural life in the region. Karal Ann Marling’s introduction provides fascinating insights into Pratt’s images of county-fair rituals and the regional culture that inspires these gatherings.

Spanish Harlem ("American Scene" series, No. 3)

Joseph Rodriguez’s color photographs bring the reader inside Spanish Harlem, where he documents not only the grim realities of drug abuse, AIDS, and crime in New York’s oldest barrio, but also its vibrant street life. Ed Vega’s essay introduces the reader to his neighborhood in Spanish Harlem, tracing its past and present.