At First Sight
Photography and the Smithsonian
By Merry A. Foresta
(Smithsonian Books, Paperback, 9781588341808, 288pp.)
Publication Date: October 17, 2004
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The Smithsonian holds more than 13 million images spanning over 150 years of taking and collecting photographs. This largely unknown body of photography (most never before published) represents nothing less than the Smithsonian's effort, in the name of all Americans, to describe and comprehend the world. Open anywhere in these pages to be plunged into the history of our modernity, and see what the Smithsonian deemed important to document and preserve. The famous, the infamous, and the never-before-seen are here in a remarkable “democracy of images”: Amelia Earhart, Abraham Lincoln, P.T. Barnum and Tom Thumb, John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Lucille Ball, Greta Garbo, Babe Ruth; the earliest views of the moon and the earliest panoramic view of Damascus; rare Native American photography; views of Asia, Africa, and the American West; photographs of early flight, and much, much more. By recording the act of seeing, and of what was seen, both photography and the Smithsonian have shaped our sense of ourselves, as individuals, as a people, and as a country.
Merry A. Foresta is senior curator of photography at the Smithsonian Institution and author of Perpetual Motif: The Photography of Man Ray.
“Elegantly designed and stunningly printed . . . a magnificent book.”—Washington Post
“The Smithsonian’s photography archive is like a family album of the American experience. Millions of pictures, from hundreds of special collections and a dozen-plus museums, all documenting the far-reaching passions and growth of our nation. Merry Foresta, with her elegant and informed curator’s eye, has combed through the archive to find the best milestones, the most significant moments. This book shows it all to us fresh.”—Susan Stamberg, Special Correspondent, National Public Radio