- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (April 18, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 039323973X
- ISBN-13: 978-0393239737
- Product Dimensions: 10 x 1.1 x 10.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #316,082 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Looking Backward: A Photographic Portrait of the World at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century 1st Edition
Use the Amazon App to scan ISBNs and compare prices.
Books with Buzz
Discover the latest buzz-worthy books, from mysteries and romance to humor and nonfiction. Explore more
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
“Michael Lesy has long been known as our foremost photographic historian. With Looking Backward it is time to recognize him as an acerbic, paradoxical, poetic essayist. With a kind of cynical affection, he is, as no one since Mark Twain, absolutely alive to the always shifting imperatives of American know-how, inventiveness, tinkering, salesmanship, expansion, and disappearance.”
- Greil Marcus
“Lesy has forged his own niche, his own singular sub-genre of literary and journalistic social criticism via archival photographs… [Looking Backward] offers a sprawling and stunning snapshot of the world in the early years of the twentieth century.”
- Jim Knipfel, The Believer
“Engrossing….Looking Backward is an urgent lesson in how photography was used to teach the world what it needed to know.”
- Andrew Holter, Brooklyn Rail
“A fascinating collection, annotated in great detail, and certainly food for thought and meditation.”
- State Magazine
“It's a fantastic book... Fascinating, excellent production, featuring an archive of the world in the early 20th Century.”
- Jonathan Blaustein, This Week in Photography
“As a historian, Lesy finds a particular fascination in these photographs and how the scenes they depict highlight many of the same issues society grapples with today ― from war and racism to environmental destruction and gross disparities in wealth.”
- Steve Pfarrer, Amherst Bulletin
About the Author
Michael Lesy is one of America’s leading photographic scholars. His books include Wisconsin Death Trip, Murder City, Angel’s World, and Long Time Coming. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he teaches literary journalism at Hampshire College.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
This book is beautiful enough to adorn your coffee table and provocative enough to engage your intellect.
The title comes from Edward Bellamy's famous novel of the same name, published in 1888, which imagined a utopia to which its hero travels far in the future -- the year 2000. Here we are! This is it. Keep turning the pages, then, through the "views" studied by millions in the late 19th and early 20th century, happy citizens provided by progress the means to buy themselves stereographs, double photographs which, when looked at through a set of wooden googles, appeared three-dimensional. Big tech for those years. Not just a novelty; a revelation, as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. claimed, "form... henceforth divorced from matter," a "divine gift," space and even time transcended, as Lesy writes in his introduction, "A Short History of Virtual Reality." Lesy is in his way as ecstatic as Holmes about these images, mostly previously unexamined, his obsession for years, but he's looking through a glass darkly -- looking backward at the moments in which these images were made and consumed not by aesthetes or photo historians by everyday people who saw in the guns and the corpses -- and in the portraits of unnamed but very grand "prominent" people, and the pictures of factories, of smoke towers, of coal burning into vast and distant skies -- pictures of a glorious future. Industry triumphant, the savages pacified, Pax Americana.
"The arrow of progress our ancestors shot high in the air," writes Lesy, "has taken more than a hundred years to land in our backs." His book is subtitled "A Photographic Portrait of the World at the Beginning of the 20th Century." Those who only glance it will mistake it for a volume of nostalgia. Maybe, in one sense, it is: for a time when millions of people believed they could transcend time and space, by looking at pictures of ancient ruins and new cities, of prominent men and dead men, of "vanishing" Indians and Russian Jews, grand hotels and peasant farms. They were right! They could. They did. But perhaps they did not understand what they saw.
That's what's so troubling about this fine, eerie book, like a prophecy in reverse: the realization that perhaps we don't, either, even now, looking backward.