Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth: FSA Photography Reconsidered (American Civilization)

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9780877228233: Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth: FSA Photography Reconsidered (American Civilization)

Discusses the concept of documentary photographs, the Farm Security Administration, and the use of photography to influence the viewer

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Review:

"[Curtis] challenges the conventional belief that documentary photographs are realistic because they are not consciously arranged images." oReviews in American History "Curtis' brilliant, revolutionary study of 82 photos probes a central paradox: documentary photography at times derives its power from artful manipulation." oPublishers Weekly "Curtis offers provocative readings of the FSA's most famous pictures...never less than absorbing." oThe Philadelphia Inquirer "By looking closely at the pictures and the visual culture of which they were a part, Curtis finds evidence that 'documentary' did not necessarilyoor even generallyomean 'real' or 'true': more often, the documentary photograph documented the values, prejudices, beliefs, and hopes of the people pointing the cameras, and the audience they wished to reach. In the process of seeing the photography of the 1930s from behind the lens, Curtis proves that documents of material culture, when interpreted with respect for their own conventions and codes of meaning, can fundamentally alter our understanding of history. Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth opens our eyes to a brand new New Deal era." oKaral Ann Marling, Professor of Art History and American Studies, University of Minnesota "An outstanding contribution to a subject much written-about and yet as Curtis demonstrates, much misunderstood Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth is one of the most brilliant analyses of how to use photographs as evidence for cultural history I have ever read. This book will make a major contribution to our understanding of FSA photography and what it says about the ways Americans in the 1930s tried to make sense of their own society. Curtis' pioneering techniques of analysis are sure to influence all who attempt to use documentary photographs to explain historical events." oDavid Culbert, Professor of History, Louisiana State University

From Library Journal:

The migrant families of Dorothea Lange and formal still lifes of Walker Evans are familiar images from the Farm Security Administration's (FSA) project to document rural America of the 1930s. Picturing Minnesota highlights a less-well-known group of FSA photographs taken in the North Central states. Photographers John Vachon (of St. Paul), Marion Post Wolcott, and Russell Lee were commissioned, in part, by Roy Stryker, head of the FSA project, to establish a balance between the more distressing imagery of the poor agrarian South. Breaking from most studies, Curtis (professor of history and director of the Winterthur Program, Univ. of Delaware) questions the "truthfulness" of the FSA collection, considering issues pertinent to documentary photography at large. To what extent can the photographer legitimately manipulate the image through selective framing, posing of subjects, or positioning of objects before documentary veracity is suspect? Can the intent or "style" of the photographer be divorced from the way we interpret the image? Assembling a visual history is fraught with philosophical pitfalls, yet Curtis has successfully explored many of them in relation to the FSA project. In both publications, the plates are of exceptional quality. Picturing Minnesota nicely augments the body of work from the FSA era and is highly recommended to large photo collections and where there is regional interest. Mind's Eye, Mind's Truth is an essential purchase for most libraries since it is an excellent resource for both history and photo collections.
-Kathy J. Anderson, Onondaga Cty. Pub. Lib., Syracuse, N.Y.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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