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Archive Style

Photographs and Illustrations for U.S. Surveys, 1850-1890

Robin Kelsey (Author)

Available worldwide
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Hardcover, 286 pages
ISBN: 9780520249356
June 2007
$85.00, £62.95
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This imaginative study of American visual culture reveals how the political predicaments of a few small bureaucracies once fostered pictures of an extraordinary style. U.S. geographical and geological surveys of the late nineteenth century produced photographs and drawings of topography, American Indians, geologic features, botanical specimens, and specialists at work in the field. Some of these pictures have long been celebrated for their anticipation of a modernist aesthetic, but Robin Kelsey, in this abundantly illustrated volume, traces their modernistic qualities to archival ingenuity. The technical and promotional needs of surveys, Kelsey argues, fostered the emergence of a taut, graphic pictorial style that imitated the informational clarity of diagrams and maps. As this book demonstrates, these pictures became sites of struggle as well as innovation when three brilliant survey artists and photographers subtly resisted the programs they were hired to serve. Discovering a politics of style behind the modernist look of survey pictures, Kelsey offers a fresh interpretation of canonical western expedition photographs by Timothy H. O'Sullivan and introduces two exceptional but largely forgotten sets of pictures: views of the U.S.-Mexico boundary from the 1850s by Arthur Schott and photographs of the Charleston earthquake of 1886 by C. C. Jones.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
ILLUSTRATIONS

INTRODUCTION RIDDLES AND PREMISES

ONE ARTHUR SCHOTT: MARKING THE MEXICAN BOUNDARY

TWO TIMOTHY H. O’SULLIVAN: SURVEYS OF THE GREAT BASIN

THREE C. C. JONES: THE USGS INVESTIGATION OF THE CHARLESTON EARTHQUAKE

CONCLUSION ARCHIVE STYLE

NOTES
WORKS CITED
INDEX
Robin Kelsey is John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Humanities at Harvard University.
“A book of startlingly consistent quality.”—Alexander Nemerov CAA Reviews
“Robert Kelsey . . . aims in Archive Style to analyze ‘pictures, style, and power outside the usual domain of art.”—Jeffrey Mifflin Archival Issues
“A well-written, thoroughly documented, and fascinating investigation.”—Journal Of American History
“This imaginative study of American visual culture reveals how the political predicaments of a few small bureaucracies once fostered pictures of an extraordinary style. . . . Offers a fresh interpretation of canonical western expeditation photographs.”—Focus Magazine
“A watershed publication. It revolutionizes many theoretical ideas on the notions of style, archive, or subject.”—Leonardo Reviews
“Masterfully combines both contemporary art and social history debates regarding past and present interpretations of visual culture and the archive itself.”—Afterimage
"Archive Style successfully and beautifully reconciles, or rather intertwines, two viewpoints hitherto considered incompatible—the logic of the archive and the issue of individual style. Robin Kelsey shows, with great historical rigor, how the styles of illustrators Schott, O'Sullivan, and Jones emerged from the very necessities of survey work and from personal resistance to the social and political structures framing such work. Archive Style, visual history at its best, is a landmark study of nineteenth-century American visual and scientific culture."—François Brunet, Professor of American Art and Literature, Université Paris-Diderot-Paris 7, France

"In this stunningly original book Robin Kelsey takes a fresh look at nineteenth-century survey prints and photographs. Insisting that the distinctive pictorial style of these pictures emerged in response to particular historical needs, he makes the case for a truly interdisciplinary approach to images. He combines an art historian's attention to artistic innovation with a historian's concern for the larger ambitions of the government surveys, to argue that aesthetic style is the product of both individual talent and larger cultural constraints."—Martha A. Sandweiss, Professor of American Studies and History at Amherst College

"Robin Kelsey's Archive Style is by far the most stimulating, imaginative, and far-reaching study of nineteenth-century American visual culture I have come across in recent years. Drawing upon a wealth of research as well as recent advances in critical theory, Kelsey persuasively reconstructs the historical conditions that in large measure determined the production and reception of survey imagery."—Alan Wallach, Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies, The College of William and Mary

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