Picks and Pans Review: The American Image
Photographs from the National Archives, 1860-1960
In his introduction to this handsome volume, historian Alan Trachtenberg notes that photographs are "like miniature replicas" that "give us worlds to ponder and amaze ourselves with." What also amazes is that there is so much art in the archives' picture collection. These photographs were originally assembled for government records, but beyond their historical worth they are visually compelling. Included are Mathew Brady's view of the Civil War, Lewis Hine's portraits of child laborers and Ansel Adams' celebration of the West. Along with the pictures by these masters are those of many anonymous photographers whose work is often as impressive. An exhibition based on the book will travel nationwide, but the big bonus is that prints of most of these magnificent images are available from the archives for as little as $4.65. (Pantheon, $20, $10 in paper)
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