ABOUT THE BOOK
Drawing from the vast permanent collection of photography at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, American Geography charts a visual history of land use in the United States. From the earliest photographic records of human habitation to the latest aerial and digital images, from uninhabited desert and isolated mountainous territories to suburban sprawl and densely populated cities, this compilation offers an increasingly nuanced perspective on the American landscape. Divided by region, these images address ways in which different histories and traditions of land use have given rise to different cultural transitions: from the Midwestern prairies and agricultural traditions of the South, to the riverine systems in the Northeast, and the environmental challenges and riches of the far West. American Geography also looks at the evidence of older habitation from the adobe dwellings and ancient cultures of the Southwest to the Midwestern mounds, many of them prehistoric.
SFMOMA’s last photography exhibition to consider land use examined only the American West. Crossing the Frontier: Photographs of the Developing West, 1849 to the Present was organized in 1996. At the time, this focus offered a different way to think about landscape, and a useful way to reconsider pictures of the region. American Geography expands upon the groundwork laid by Crossing the Frontier, providing a complex, thought-provoking survey. Featuring work from Carleton E. Watkins, Barbara Bosworth, Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Mitch Epstein, An-My Lê, William Eggleston, Alec Soth, Mishka Henner, Trevor Paglan, Victoria Sambunaris, Emmet Gowin, Robert Adams, Terry Evans, Dorothea Lange, and Mark Ruwedel, among others.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
SFMOMA Curator Emerita Sandra Phillips provides accompanying text alongside the presentation of photographs arranged by region. The publication also features original texts by a range of scholars who respond to key issues around land use in all parts of the U.S., including Beverly Dahlen (poet), Hilary Green (University of Alabama), Barry Lopez (National Book Award-winning author), Jenny Reardon (UC Santa Cruz), Richard White (Stanford University), and Richard B. Woodward (art critic and writer).