Rectangular Packages With Ribbons

Once they unwrap these, they'll put them on the coffee table or in the WC, and then they'll hug you!

Rectangular Packages With Ribbons

True West

Yes, it's technically of the coffee table ilk, and yes, you'll pay out the nose for the hifalutin design ('tis the season). But Martha Sandweiss' Print the Legend (Yale University Press, $39.95) also happens to be a sophisticated and engaging exploration of photography and the West not seen since the Goetzmans (pere et fils) offered up West of the Imagination in the mid-Eighties. With its interdisciplinary focus, multicultural breadth, and the assumption that cultural images are essentially powerful social constructions, Print the Legend lays bare a trove of historical photographs as "sources of meaning in and of themselves." Drawing on her curatorial experience at Fort Worth's Amon Carter Museum, Sandweiss, who now teaches American studies at Amherst, argues that 19th-century photographs shaped "broader cultural meanings of the West" that subsequently influenced the pictures that photographers shot. This tail-chaser of a thesis is pretty much standard cultural-studies fluff. Nonetheless, through lucid prose, an obvious and genuine admiration for her documents, and a tendency to push her thesis with Sisyphean determination, she decisively shows how "photographers working in the West understood the potential historical value of their work." At times, the bulk of her ambitious project threatens to roll back upon itself, but in the end we too see the historical value of these underappreciated and beautiful documents. Or at least a really handsome book.

  • Rectangular Packages With Ribbons

    Once they unwrap these, they'll put them on the coffee table or in the WC, and then they'll hug you!
  • Everyone Adapting Everywhere

    Maria Hong finds that everyone is adapting everywhere in her review of three of the year's most powerful photography collections.

    See, Memory

    "Judging from the places he visited in Texas, he is clearly one New Yorker who believed, or at least wanted to document, the myths Texans tell themselves," writes Clay Smith of Garry Winogrand's photographs in Winogrand 1964.

    Roll Over, Spock, & Tell T. Berry the News

    Fred Rogers knows how to communicate with kids. Let him help you.
  • Behind the Curtain

    Taylor Holland goes behind the curtain in his review of three of this year's most intriguing art books.

    Bradbury, Now and Then

    What most befits you vis-a-vis ageless Ray Bradbury this season? His new one and an illustrated look back at all the old ones.

    All's I Want for Christmas Is Some Pussy Galore

    "Like the films themselves, Tony Nourmand's collection from the Eon Productions vaults offers much in the way of leggy villanesses and naughty, naughty sidekicks, and enough martinis, models, and megalomaniacs to sate the most cadlike of raffish rakes," writes Kate X Messer.

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More by James McWilliams
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Aug. 1, 2003

Book Reviews
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James McWilliams reviews Hugh Thomson's The White Rock.

March 14, 2003


Print the Legend, Martha Sandweiss, Yale University Press

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