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Aperture Presents Photographic Memory: The Album in the Age of Photography by Verna Posever Curtis

Photographic Memory: The Album in the Age of Photography (Aperture, June 2011) traces the rise of the album from the turn of the century to the present day, showcasing some of the most important examples in the history of the medium, as collected by the Library of Congress.

The albums that comprise Photographic Memory provide immensely personal and idiosyncratic historical perspectives. From an 1899 Alaskan expedition album of Edward Sheriff Curtis’s early work, to Walker Evans’s extended suite of images in study for Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, to a family album by Danny Lyon, this beautifully produced book provides an in-depth look at the history of photography through the handmade objects of some its most famous practitioners, much of which is previously unpublished.

The book includes works by photographers and filmmakers such as F. Holland Day, Jim Goldberg, Dorothea Lange, Duane Michals, Leni Riefenstahl, and W. Eugene Smith alongside lesser-known, yet significant albums on subjects as varied as African American vaudeville, the 1915 Jerusalem locust plague, and the folkways of Spain. Each album, beautifully reproduced over numerous spreads, is accompanied by detailed explanatory text. An insightful history of the album format and an informative essay about caring for and restoring albums,complement the collection.

At a time when the physical collection of photographs is becoming largely immaterial through digital means, Photographic Memory is a comprehensive, illustrated history of a mode of presentation that became an art form in itself—a history that has seen radical shifts in the role of handmade artists’ objects.

VERNA POSEVER CURTIS (editor) is a curator of photography in the Prints & Photographs Division of the Library of Congress. She has written and lectured extensively on 19th and 20th century photography, and penned the volumes Ambassadors of Progress: American Women Photographers in Paris, 1900–1901 and F. Holland Day: Selected Texts and Bibliography, among others.

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