9780292753013: Hardback
Release Date: 15th September 2013

98 color plates, 71 figures

Dimensions: 254 x 305

Number of Pages: 344

Series The William and Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemisphere

University of Texas Press


American Photography Transformed

Hardback / £65.00

Capturing the world in color was one of photography’s greatest aspirations from the very beginnings of the medium. When color photography became a reality with the introduction of the Autochrome in 1907, prominent photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz were overjoyed. But they quickly came to reject color photography as too aligned with human sight. It took decades for artists to come to understand the creative potential of color, and only in 1976, when John Szarkowski showed William Eggleston’s photographs at the Museum of Modern Art, did the art world embrace color. By accepting color’s flexibility and emotional transcendence, Szarkowski and Eggleston transformed photography, giving the medium equal artistic stature with painting, but also initiating its demise as an independent art.

The catalogue of a major exhibition at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, which holds one of the premier collections of American photography, Color tells, for the first time, the fascinating story of color’s integration into American fine art photography and how its acceptance revolutionized the practice of art. Tracing the development of color photography from the first color photograph in 1851 to digital photography, John Rohrbach describes photographers’ initial rejection of color, their decades-long debates over what color brings to photography, and how their gradual acceptance of color released photography from its status as a second-tier art form. He shows how this absorption of color instigated wide acceptance of a fundamentally new definition of photography, one that blends photography’s documentary foundations with the creative flexibility of painting. Sylvie Pénichon offers a succinct survey of the technological advances that made color in photography a reality and have since marked its multifaceted development. These texts, illuminated by seventy-five full-page plates and more than eighty illustrations, make this book a groundbreaking contribution to photographic studies.



Chapter One: Inventing Color Photography

Chapter Two: Defining Color, 1936–1970

Chapter Three: Using Color, 1970–1990

Chapter Four: Interrogating Color, 1990–2010
By John Rohrbach

From Potatoes to Pixels: A Short Technical History of Color Photography
By Sylvie Pénichon

List of Plates




A leading curator in the field of fine art photography, Rohrbach is senior curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. He coedited the collection of essays Reframing the New Topographics, and his other publications include “Time in New England: Creating a Usable Past,” in Paul Strand: Essays on His Life and Work; Eliot Porter: The Color of Wildness; Regarding the Land: Robert Glenn Ketchum and the Legacy of Eliot Porter; and Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke.

"This [book] makes an important contribution to the fields of photohistory and cultural history. . . . You really get a sense of key players in the field: who had influence, how they exerted it, and what their agenda was (even if the agenda changed over time.) There is even a degree of suspense as the history unfolds."

Britt Salvesen, Curator and Head of the Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

"Rohrbach has uncovered, through interviews and secondary sources, a great deal that has not been stated in print before . . . a superior work."

Arthur Ollman, San Diego State University, Founding Director of the Museum of Photographic Arts