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The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888-1978
Sarah Greenough & Diane Waggoner
With Sarah Kennel & Matthew S. Witkovsky

Winner of the 2008 Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award
Winner of the 2008 Bronze Medal in Photography, Independent Publisher Book Awards
Shortlisted for the 2008 Kraszna-Krausz Award in Best Photography Book
First Prize in the American Association of Museums Publication Design Competition

Hardcover | 2007 | $55.00 | £45.95 | ISBN: 9780691133683
288 pp. | 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 | 278 color and duotone illus.
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The impact of the humble American snapshot has been anything but humble. Any American who takes a snapshot contributes to a compelling and influential genre. Since 1888, when George Eastman introduced the Kodak camera and roll film, the snapshot has not only changed everyday American life and memory; it has also changed the history of fine art photography. The distinctive subject matter and visual vocabulary of the American snapshot--its poses, facial expressions, viewpoints, framing, and themes--influenced modernist photographers as they explored spontaneity, objectivity, and new topics and perspectives. A richly illustrated chronicle of the first century of snapshot photography in America, The Art of the American Snapshot is the first book to examine the evolution of this most common form of American photography. The book shows that among the countless snapshots taken by American amateurs, some works, through intention or accident, continue to resonate long after their intimate context and original meaning have been lost.

The catalogue of a fall 2007 exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, The Art of the American Snapshot reproduces some 250 snapshots drawn from Robert Jackson's outstanding collection and from a recent gift Jackson made to the museum. Organized decade by decade, the book traces the evolution of American snapshot imagery and describes how technical, social, and cultural factors affected the look of snapshots at different periods.


"The prints in The Art of the American Snapshot are reproduced at their actual modest size, with lots of blazingly white space, and have taken their riddles into oblivion with their anonymous creators...The camera, that highly evolved mechanism, put into Everyman's untrained hands the chance to become, if half by accident, a death-defying artist. The collector Robert Jackson deserves the last shot; his afterword to the catalogue manages to cast a pall of reasonableness over his curious passion."--John Updike, The New Yorker

"The photos, chosen for the pleasure they give, and the text. which aims to recount photographic history, sometimes seem at odds, but the ways people took snapshots, what they took snapshots of, and how they presented themselves to the camera changed with time, and Jackson's sample is large enough to allow speculation about the nature of the changes."--Caleb Crain, New York Review of Books

"Professionals who leaf through The Art of the American Snapshot 1888-1978 may despair as they realize that offhand efforts with a camera frequently produce more visual excitement than their studied excercises...Sarah Greenough...and her colleagues help to give meaning to the ordinary by probing, in their essays, how deeply the artless has shaped what we now consider art."--Richard B. Woodward, Wall Street Journal

"The Art of the American Snapshot celebrates the humble snapshot with a collection of anonymous images belonging to art historian Robert E. Jackson."--Claire Holland, Financial Times

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Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Sarah Greenough:

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Published in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington

gold fish bowl
unknown photographer,
National Gallery of Art,

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Bud and Jeff, 1959
unknown photographer,
Dec. 20, 1959.
National Gallery of Art,

Click to Enlarge

chromogenic print, January 1965
unknown photographer,
January 1965.
Collection of
Robert E. Jackson

Click to Enlarge

chromogenic print, September 1969
unknown photographer,
September 1969.
National Gallery of Art,

Click to Enlarge

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File created: 7/11/2017

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