Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self

Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self

by Coco Fusco
     
 

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What role has photography played in shaping our ideas about race, nation, and selfhood? How has the camera been used to construct and contrast images of racial difference? To create or debunk stereotypes and romantic myths about specific ethnic groups? This groundbreaking book is the first to thoroughly investigate the impact that photography has had on race and

Overview

What role has photography played in shaping our ideas about race, nation, and selfhood? How has the camera been used to construct and contrast images of racial difference? To create or debunk stereotypes and romantic myths about specific ethnic groups? This groundbreaking book is the first to thoroughly investigate the impact that photography has had on race and racial identity in America—among the most profound and explosive issues in our nation's history and everyday life.From Dorothea Lange's portrait of Mexican braceros brought to the United States as farm workers, to Anthony Aziz & Sammy Cucher's digitally manipulated, idealized nudes, Only Skin Deep presents historical and contemporary images and embraces a wide range of genres and movements, including portraiture, social documentary, ethnographic photography, fine-art photography, and photojournalism. Complementing the images are four original essays on race and photography, eight reprint essays that have served as foundational documents in the discussion of race, and five case studies that focus more narrowly on representations of specific cultural groups. The book will accompany a national touring exhibition prepared by the International Center of Photography in New York.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
From its very beginnings, photography has been inextricably linked with racial typography, pornography, commodification and exploitation. This deeply questioning collection of 300 color photos and illustrations, along with essays, accompanies a national touring exhibition curated by the International Center of Photography's Wallis and artist Fusco (The Bodies that Were Not Ours). The collection exhumes and re-examines the "dark" underbelly of American race relations as related by historical photographs, and along the way makes valuable re-discoveries, including that the "Migrant Mother" in Dorothea Lange's celebrated Depression-era photograph, Florence Thompson, was of Cherokee descent. Aleta M. Ringlero relates how one response to her research on "Prairie Pinups," erotic photographs of American Indian women, was "we like to forget those kinds of photographs are in our collection." Demonstrating the book's intent to raise questions, not bury them, the contributors are allowed to disagree with each other: Kobena Mercer ultimately finds that Robert Mapplethorpe's photographs of black men "can be seen as a subversive deconstruction of the hidden racial and gendered axioms of the nude," while Lauri Firstenberg finds them "a contemporary example of photography's categorization and classification of subjects by stereotype." Despite their number, however, the images are underplayed-sparsely scattered through texts and printed small, they are left largely unexplained (in fact, the footnotes, placed directly underneath the photographs, are easily mistaken for captions) and photographs cited in the texts often seem not included. It will be a disappointment to many readers that the actual photographic evidence, difficult as it is to look at, is not an equal partner in this much-needed examination of the painful histories behind American identity. (Dec.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Written to accompany the traveling exhibition of the same name prepared by the International Center of Photography (ICP), this book is much more than an exhibition record or expansion of a show's topical scope. It is a powerful, thoroughgoing examination of the racial and nationalist conceptions that were photographically propagated from the mid-19th century onward. It profoundly considers the ways in which photography has traditionally helped to authenticate, shape, and galvanize these notions. Discussing the negative outcome of 19th-century ethnographic documentation, the depiction of photographic subjects as savage or sexualized "Others," and the significance of digital manipulation in contemporary art, the book's 17 essays orbit complex and ambivalent issues key to racial and national politics. Is the traditional emphasis on difference a divisive social force or should difference be celebrated? Editors Fusco (Corpus Delecti) and Wallis (chief curator, ICP; Blasted Allegories) have chosen authors who carefully consider photography's capacity to represent truth, its ability to shape human memory, and its possibly treacherous potential to traverse language barriers. With 300 full-color illustrations, the book is a vital contribution to the fields of American history, art history, and anthropology and is recommended for all libraries focusing on these subjects. [The show's locations through 2005 include New York City's ICP, the Seattle Museum of Art, Puerto Rico's El Museo del Arte, San Diego Museum of Art, and Ohio's Wexner Center.-Ed.]-Savannah Schroll, formerly with Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810946354
Publisher:
Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
12/28/2003
Pages:
416
Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.50(h) x 1.75(d)

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