unboxing An American Century of Photography

If you hurry, you might be able to still get your hands on this encyclopedic text for cheap… The Online Photographer  scored some kind of a deal with the Nelson-Atkins Museum for his readers, and I picked up An American Century of Photography: From Dry-Plate to Digital: the Hallmark Photographic Collection for a song + shipping.

Well, this is about as far away from Photography is Magic as anything… Hallmark started putting together a photography collection sometime in the 1960s, and by the 1990s it had amassed quite a collection. Keith F. Davis curated the collection from 1979 until it was donated to the Nelson-Atkins, at which point he became the Senior Curator of Photography there. In 1995, Davis put together the first edition, which sold out quickly, and in 1999 he put out this second edition with 200 extra images. Interestingly enough, Davis also put together and wrote most of the text for the Dave Heath book that T.O.P. picked as his photobook of the year, and the Ray K. Metzker book he championed—and that I bought—back in 2014, so I expect the text in An American Century of Photography  to be informative and well researched.

The book itself is very well put together and heavy. The printing quality is good, and the tome is jam packed with familiar classics and stuff most readers have probably never seen before. The first images are from the 1880s, and the last images are from the early 1990s. I was particularly struck by some of the early color Carbro Process prints. The color is reminiscent of Autochrome to my eye, but finer and clearer, and God Willing, I’m going to find a curve that will come close to replicating that look. And with virtually all styles of photography represented, I was interested to notice a few things from the mid-20th century that look like direct precursors to some of the stuff in Photography is Magic.

In the interest of getting more exposure for the book sale—at last report, there were only about 250 copies remaining at the wildly discounted price—I’ll leave off here. If you’re looking for a doorstop/home defense-type photo history book, look no further.

 

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