Disappearing Witness: Change in Twentieth-Century American Photography / Edition 1

Disappearing Witness: Change in Twentieth-Century American Photography / Edition 1

by Gretchen Garner
Pub. Date:
Johns Hopkins University Press


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Disappearing Witness: Change in Twentieth-Century American Photography / Edition 1

American photographers documented and defined the twentieth century in a remarkable array of images, the style and content of which evolved dramatically over the course of the century. In Disappearing Witness, photographer and art historian Gretchen Garner chronicles this transformation, from the introduction of the 35-millimeter camera in the 1920s to the digital photography of today. Accompanied by over 125 key works in the history of photography—fine-art, documentary, and editorial—her thoughtful and enlightening discussion traces American photography's aesthetic, commercial, and technological changes, as the medium's primary role of spontaneous witness gradually gave way to contrived arrangement and artistic invention.

Garner discusses direct witness as the dominant paradigm for American photographers from the 1920s to the 1960s. During these decades, photographers saw their medium primarily as a vehicle for truthful description and sometimes as a weapon against social injustice. In the 1960s, however, photographic practice and its cultural significance shifted to reflect more personal, idiosyncratic, and staged visions of reality—a trend, Garner notes, that has intensified with digital photography. The major portion of the book is devoted to post-1960s work, exploring how the changes have affected portraiture, documentary, landscape, still life, fashion, and the new genre of self-imagery. In documenting this transformation in American photography, Disappearing Witness forcefully rethinks the history of photography itself.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780801871672
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date: 05/15/2003
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.37(d)

About the Author

Gretchen Garner is a photographer and independent scholar. She has taught photography and history of photography at Michigan's Grand Valley State University and at the University of Connecticut in Storrs, served as editor of Exposure and as photography editor of the New Art Examiner, and has curated exhibitions at museums in Minnesota and Michigan. She lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Table of Contents


List of Illustrations

Preface and Acknowledgments


PART I Photography of Witness

ONE Being There: Spontaneous Witness

TWO Speed and the Machine

THREE Fine-Art Photography, Redefined

FOUR Documentary

FIVE The Magazines

SIX Spirit in PhotographyPART II Disappearing Witness

SEVEN New Paradigms: Uelsmann, Michals, and Samaras

EIGHT Documentary-Style and Street Photography

NINE Photography about Photography: The Academy and the Art World

TEN New Landscapes, New Portraits: The Seventies and Eighties

ELEVEN The Subject Self

TWELVE Arrangement, Invention, and Appropriation

THIRTEEN Digitized PhotographyConclusionNotes

Works Cited


What People are Saying About This

A. D. Coleman

Clearly written, and illustrated with well-chosen images, Disappearing Witness describes the significant paradigm shift in photography over the course of the twentieth century, namely the move from direct observation of the world through the lens to a more critical relationship between the act of photographic observation and picture-making. Gretchen Garner's unusual and welcome premise is well-reasoned and persuasive.

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