Shawn Michelle Smith is Associate Professor of Visual and Critical Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is the author of Photography on the Color Line: W. E. B. Du Bois, Race, and Visual Culture (also published by Duke University Press) and American Archives: Gender, Race, and Class in Visual Culture; coauthor of Lynching Photographs; and coeditor of Pictures and Progress: Early Photography and the Making of African American Identity (also published by Duke University Press).
Comprising an impressive range of essays and interviews by experts and scholars from across the globe, this book examines the medium’s history, its central issues and emerging trends, and its much-discussed future. The collected essays and interviews explore the current debates surrounding the photograph as object, art, document, propaganda, truth, selling tool, and universal language; the perception of photography archives as burdens, rather than treasures; the continual technological development reshaping the field; photography as a tool of representation and control, and more.
One of the most comprehensive volumes of its kind, this companion is essential reading for photographers and historians alike.
Smith reads Du Bois’s photographs in relation to other turn-of-the-century images such as scientific typologies, criminal mugshots, racist caricatures, and lynching photographs. By juxtaposing these images with reproductions from Du Bois’s exhibition archive, Smith shows how Du Bois deliberately challenged racist representations of African Americans. Emphasizing the importance of comparing multiple visual archives, Photography on the Color Line reinvigorates understandings of the stakes of representation and the fundamental connections between race and visual culture in the United States.