Top positive review
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Nice introduction to the primary sources in the history of photography
on March 25, 2009
Although Trachtenberg's collection has been around for awhile (since 1980), it provides a very nice selection of primary source materials on the history of photography. If you want to know what people were actually thinking and saying about photography during its first 140 years or so, you can find it here. In addition, Trachtenberg's introductions to the selections are quite good--not showy or promoting some particular intellectual hobby horse, but solid and factual and useful to students--I've been studying the topic for years and have found very few factual errors or questionable judgments in his material. The main limitation is that the book stops in the 1970s, so, for my course in history of photography I have to provide additional materials for the recent developments, such as digital photography and the relations between photography and computing and the internet. The only other common item somewhat like this is Goldberg's "Photography in Print," which costs twice as much and, although it is more complete, is not twice as good, at least for the purposes of students in a first course in history of photography. My students can pick up a copy of Trachtenberg for a few dollars used, not much more new, and they've responded well to the selection of readings. Some minor downsides: there is no index, and the individual readings don't give the date of publication (though this is generally available in the "Sources" section at the end of the book). In short, within its limitations, this is an excellent source book, and a bargain in an age of obscene textbook pricing.