Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

220 × 190 × 17 mm
184 pages
107 illustrations, 60 in colour
01 Nov 2010
  • £19.95

  • This edition is currently unavailable

Photography and the USA Mick Gidley

From Ansel Adams to Carleton Watkins, Diane Arbus to Weegee, Richard Avedon to James VanDerZee, American photographers have recorded their vast, multicultural nation in images that, for more than a hundred years, have come to define the USA.

In Photography and the USA, Mick Gidley explores not only the medium of photography and the efforts to capture key events and moments through photographs, but also the many ways in which the medium has played a formative role in American culture. Photography and the USA encompasses the major movements, figures and works that are crucial to understanding American photography, but also pays attention to more obscure aspects of photography’s history. Focusing on works that reveal many different facets of America, its landscapes and its people, Gidley explores the ambiguities of American history and culture. We encounter images that range from an anti-lynching demo in 1934 to Dorothea Lange’s poster All races serve the crops in California; an early photographic view of Niagara Falls against the painstaking detail of Edward Weston’s Pepper, No. 30; a fireman’s fight in the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 to the Ground Zero images of 2001 by Joel Meyerowitz; an 1890s ‘Wanted’ image to Elliot Erwitt’s shot of the Nixon-Kruschchev ‘Kitchen Debate’. Organizing his narrative around the themes of history, technology, the document and the emblem, Mick Gidley not only presents a history of photography, but also reveals the complexities inherent in reading photographs themselves.

A concise yet comprehensive overview of photography in the United States, this book is an excellent introduction to the subject for American Studies or visual arts students, or for anyone interested in US history or culture.

‘deftly negotiates the complexities of the conjunction at which photography meets geo-cultural history. Gidleys approach emphasises that photographys relationship with the self-image of the US in not merely one in which photography catalogues or documents the development of the nation, but a much more intertwined history in which photography is part of the capacity of the US to make itself anew . . . Photography and the USA intelligently shifts between the popular, sometimes propagandistically national image, the 'merely documentary and the image which functions as cultural critique . . . Gidleys method makes sense for and of the vastness of his territory.’ — Source

‘Mick Gidleys Photography and the USA tackles an enormous subject with erudition and panache . . . Gidley adeptly juggles the great names of the camera art and the American dominance of the technology by Eastman, Polaroid and Kodak - with the multifaceted nature of the United States . . . He offers a fresh take on the nation that has become the pre-eminent creator of still and moving images - and delivers in a concise 184 pages without leaving the reader dissatisfied.’ — F22 magazine

‘This very interesting work will be a valuable addition to both college and public library collections, and an important source for students of American photography and photographic technology. Highly recommended.’ — Choice

‘Gidney has produced a fascinating, if small and selective, book. It has the feel of illustrated essays rather than an all-encompassing history. It can be read and re-read by serious scholars and an interested general public with equal ease. It is a book that will be picked up again and again, and always show something new - because the reader is engaged in the same project, understanding ourselves.’ — Metapsychology

‘This title considers the photographic image from the perspective of American Studies and the result is an interesting, well-written book by an informed author . . . Photography and the USA is a lucid and engaging consideration of photographic production and its symbiotic relationship with the USA. The book serves as an excellent introduction to the history of photography and the photographs role in American culture.’ — American Studies

‘Gidleys book provides an insightful portrait of photographys stake in shaping American history an identity from its inception.’ — Journal of American Studies

Show all

Mick Gidley is Emeritus Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Leeds. He is the author of With One Sky Above Us: Life on an Indian Reservation at the Turn of the Century (1979).


1   Technologies
2   Histories
3   Documents
4   Emblems

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements