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Paper Promises: Early American Photography

  • Mazie M. Harris

    Scholarship on photography’s earliest years has tended to focus on daguerreotypes on metal or on the European development of paper photographs made from glass or paper negatives. But Americans also experimented with negative-positive processes to produce photographic images on a variety of paper formats in the early decades of the medium. Paper Promises: Early American Photographypresents this rarely studied topic within photographic history. 

    The well-researched and richly detailed texts in this book delve into the complexities of early paper photography in the United States from the 1840s to 1860s, bringing to light a little-known era of American photographic appropriation and adaptation. Exploring the economic, political, intellectual, and social factors that impacted its unique evolution, both the essays and the carefully selected images illustrate the importance of photographic reproduction in shaping and circulating perceptions of America and its people during a critical period of political tension and territorial expansion. 

    Due to the fragility of paper photography from this period, the works in this catalogue are rarely displayed, making the volume an essential tool for any scholar in the field and a very rare peek into the mid-nineteenth century. 

    This volume was published to accompany an exhibition on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center February 27 to May 27, 2018.

    Mazie M. Harris is assistant curator in the Department of Photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum. Her research focuses on American photography. 

    224 pages
    9 1/2 x 11 inches
    191 color illustrations
    ISBN 978-1-60606-549-5

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum