Winner of the Charles C. Eldredge Prize
In this book, Alan Trachtenberg reinterprets some of America's most significant photographs, presenting them not as static images but rather as rich cultural texts suffused with meaning and historical content. Reading American Photographs is lavishly illustrated with the work of such luminaries as Mathew Brady, Timothy O'Sullivan, and Walker Evans—pictures that document the American experience from 1839 to 1938. In an outstanding analysis, Trachtenberg eloquently articulates how the art of photography has both followed and shaped the course of American history, and how images captured decades ago provocatively illuminate the present.
"As Mr. Trachtenberg concludes, 'It is not so much a new but a clarifying light American photographs shed upon American reality.' That light, as he has richly demonstrated, now illuminates our past in inescapable and powerful ways."—Williams S. McFeely, The New York Times Book Review
"Brilliantly elucidates how an informed cultural historian sees and interprets American images through the camera's eye."—Daniel Aaron, Harvard University
"Alan Trachtenberg's Reading American Photographs gives fresh and fascinating insights into the household names of photographic history."—Cornell Capa
"A splendid book [written with] learning and intellectual passion . . . thoroughly gratifying."—Alfred Kazin
"This is a must read for those interested in culture and politics. He brilliantly interprets the past for the present."—Wanda M. Corn, Stanford University