Picturing Utopia: Bertha Shambaugh and the Amana Photographers

Overview

More than a hundred years ago, Bertha Shambaugh set out to photograph the Amana Colonies, the utopian religious community twenty miles northwest of Iowa City. Following her example, several Amana members ignored their community's prohibition against photography and took up cameras to record the people and events around them. Picturing Utopia celebrates their artistic vision and offers a rare glimpse into a 19th-century religious utopia, providing an unbroken photographic record beginning with Shambaugh's work in ...

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Overview

More than a hundred years ago, Bertha Shambaugh set out to photograph the Amana Colonies, the utopian religious community twenty miles northwest of Iowa City. Following her example, several Amana members ignored their community's prohibition against photography and took up cameras to record the people and events around them. Picturing Utopia celebrates their artistic vision and offers a rare glimpse into a 19th-century religious utopia, providing an unbroken photographic record beginning with Shambaugh's work in the 1890s and continuing through the Colonies' transition to mainstream American life with the Great Change in 1932. Abigail Foerstner, whose great uncle was one of the Amana photographers included in this book, brings together this stunning collection of photographs along with the stories of the photographers who took them. Together the pictures and text fill in an untold chapter in American photographic history and provide an insider's view of life in Amana.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Like a time machine, the photographs in Picturing Utopia carry us back to a wondrous Iowa experiment in creating a kinder, more spiritual way of life. I recommend this book to all who are overwhelmed by the complexities of modern-day living.”--Jon Anderson, Chicago Tribune

“The photographs' subject matter is the stuff of ordinary life: children and adults at work and play, seasonal celebrations, the interiors of old Amana churches, empty schoolhouse benches. Intimate and warm, the text evokes in style and tone the elegiac quality of the photographs. . . . This is a rare glimpse of a 19th-century utopian religious society, which is to say a unique document of a vanished way of life.”--Booklist

“Historians of the Amana Colonies have long been grateful that the leadership of Amana's religious communal society did not strictly enforce its prohibition of photography: the images are essential resources that document our community's past. With its wonderfully rich collection of newly discovered images, Picturing Utopia not only adds to our knowledge of the Amana Colonies' history but also gives us a greater appreciation for the artistic expression of the photographers.”--Lanny Haldy, executive director, Amana Heritage Society

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877456995
  • Publisher: University of Iowa Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2000
  • Series: Bur Oak Books Series
  • Pages: 166
  • Product dimensions: 9.38 (w) x 9.35 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Abigail Foerstner has written hundreds of articles on art and photography for the Chicago Tribune, North Shore magazine, and other publications. Currently teaching in the Graduate Program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she is also writing a biography of space pioneer James Van Allen. While researching Picturing Utopia, she helped recover more than a thousand glass plates and other photographic negatives now preserved at the Amana Heritage Museum.

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Table of Contents

Bertha Horack Shambaugh : pioneering photographer 5
Bertha and Benjamin Shambaugh : hosts for a mecca of minds 15
The Amana experience 29
Amana photographers : the insider's view 39
William Foerstner 42
Christian Herrmann 45
Paul and Rudolph Kellenberger 48
F. William Miller 51
William F. Noe 54
Friedrich Oehl 56
Jacob and Henrietta Selzer 59
Peter Stuck 61
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