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Perpetual Mirage: Photographic Narratives of the Desert West Hardcover – June, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This catalog to an exhibition of photographs of the desert areas of the American West held at the Whitney Museum this past summer should satisfy our continuing fascination with the region while at the same time analyzing the evolution of its unique meanings. Castleberry, the Whitney's librarian and curator of special collections, has written a well-researched and perceptive introduction that examines photographic books as unique historical tools that "make excellent barometers for gauging the interests-or fantasies-of the historical consumer." The lead essay, by Martha Sandweiss (American studies, Amherst Coll.), provides an overview of the evolution of the photographic book as a narrative medium from the latter part of the 19th century to the present. The 20 short essays that follow, written by a group of notable historians, curators, and novelists, delve more deeply into specific titles and projects in the genre. Highlights include Robert Coles's interpretation of Dorothea Lange and Paul Taylor's An American Exodus (1939) as a "milestone" in social documentary, and Robert Sobieszek's insightful comments on the bulldozed landscapes of Lewis Baltz's Nevada (1978). Castleberry has chosen an excellent approach and format for exploring the mythic nature of the arid West. An impeccably produced work that would make a fine addition to most collections.
Kathy J. Anderson, Indiana Univ., Bloomington
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Whitney Museum of Art; 1st Ed. edition (June 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810968207
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810968202
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 9.8 x 12 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,758,845 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter D. Tillman VINE VOICE on February 21, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the catalog of a 1996 exhibition at the Whitney: "Photographic Narrataives of the Desert West." The catalog has well-reproduced photos from the mid-19th century up to the turn of the 20th, mostly from the "Great Surveys" by Clarence King, Lt. Wheeler and John Wesley Powell, with works by such pioneer landscape photographers as William Henry Jackson, John Hillers, and Timothy O'Sullivan. There are a few samples of the works of early 20th century photographers like Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams, and (to my eye) less-distinguished work by more recent photographers like Robert Adams and Mark Klett.

Fortunately, the core of the book is about the pioneers. The accompanying essays are worth reading (though of variable quality), and there's a useful section of biographical sketches of the featured photographers. Definitely worth a look if you're interested in this era of photography. It's a handsome and well=produced book, certainly well-worth the $6-10 asking price for a used copy.

As is usual with OOP books, Amazon has (at the moment) three separate pages listing used copies of this book. This page has the most copies available as of this writing.

Happy viewing,
Peter D. Tillman
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Geronimo on December 12, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
So good a book I ordered it twice already, unwittingly. If you can get a copy of CROSSING THE FRONTIER by Phillips, et. all, the two go together like shutter and shutter cable. Big books, both are, and the writing doesn't get in the way of the photographs.
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