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Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self [Hardcover]

Coco Fusco , Brian Wallis
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 65.00 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Dec 1 2003
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.


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From 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Coco Fusco is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist and director of graduate study for the Visual Arts Division at Columbia University's School of the Arts. Fusco has curated exhibitions for London's ICA, the Brooklyn Museum, and several other venues. Brian Wallis is director of exhibitions and chief curator at the International Center of Photography. In addition to writing several books on contemporary art, he has contributed to many publications, including Artforum, Art in America, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

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5.0 out of 5 stars GRAND VISION/HARD VIEWING Feb. 28 2004
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
An enormous and fasinating series of discussions surrounding "raced looking" in America's history of photography is central to this group of essays by many of the cultural critics working today. A massive tome with outstanding visuals, some not seen in the exhibition, provide extensive background and analysis to the area of how race has intervened in American culture today. For museums who felt the race subject had been addressed in the 90s post-Quincentennary exhibition, it is obvious that much more in depth examination is necessary and relevant. An outstanding effort for a museum catalogue and exhibition. All should be commended. Required reading for anyone working and teaching in cultural studies, ethnic studies, humanities, and the arts.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GRAND VISION/HARD VIEWING Feb. 28 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An enormous and fasinating series of discussions surrounding "raced looking" in America's history of photography is central to this group of essays by many of the cultural critics working today. A massive tome with outstanding visuals, some not seen in the exhibition, provide extensive background and analysis to the area of how race has intervened in American culture today. For museums who felt the race subject had been addressed in the 90s post-Quincentennary exhibition, it is obvious that much more in depth examination is necessary and relevant. An outstanding effort for a museum catalogue and exhibition. All should be commended. Required reading for anyone working and teaching in cultural studies, ethnic studies, humanities, and the arts.
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