I'm delighted to announce that my friend, Laura Katzman, will be coming to the University of Virginia, tomorrow, December 1st, to talk about Re-viewing Documentary: The Photographic Life of Louise Rosskam, the wonderful new book that she's co-authored with Beverly W. Brannan.
Louise Rosskam: Car in front of Shulman's Market on N at Union St. S.W., Washington, D.C., c. 1941. [Library of Congress, Farm Security Administration-Office of War Information Collection. Click on either photo to see a much larger version.]
Re-viewing Documentary is the companion volume to the exhibition of the same name that's currently at the American University Museum, in Washington, D.C. It examines the work of Louise Rosskam, an elusive pioneer of the golden age of American documentary photography. Often in collaboration with her better-known husband, Edwin, Rosskam photographed for the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, the U.S. Treasury Department, the Standard Oil Company, the Office of Information for Puerto Rico, and the New Jersey Department of Education, from the 1930s to the '70s.
Re-viewing Documentary is the first study to assess Louise Rosskam's contributions to the larger field of social reform photography. It addresses the boundaries that she crossed in negotiating her role in a profession in which women were still a distinct minority. Laura and Beverly reveal how Rosskam embraced the documentary impulse of the age, broadened the mass media uses of documentary, and even recognized the mode's limitations. The book also highlights the extraordinary photographs she and Edwin created in Puerto Rico as it developed from an impoverished U.S. possession to an industrialized commonwealth. Along the way, the Rosskams helped expand the perimeters -- geographic and ideological -- of U.S. documentary practice.
I'm really looking forward to Laura's talk. Early reviews of the book have been terrific.
For instance, Tom Rankin of the Center for Documentary Studies, at Duke University, says "For years, Louise Rosskam's important contribution to the formative years of American documentary expression went virtually unrecognized. With the fine work of Laura Katzman and Beverly Brannan, we can at last see and understand the profound depth and beauty of Rosskam's work. Her own story, revealed so eloquently through this compelling book, is a powerful reminder of the lasting resonance of the documentary artist. This book-like the photographer herself-is a true gem."
Bonnie Yochelson, author of Berenice Abbott: Changing New York and Esther Bubley: On Assignment, writes that "We can be grateful to Laura Katzman and Beverly Brannan for their thorough study of Louise Rosskam, which gives her a deserved place on the roster of notable twentieth-century documentary photographers. In unraveling the mystery of Rosskam's previous obscurity, the authors illuminate an American culture very different from our own."
Louise Rosskam: Laundry, barbershop and store, Washington, D.C.[?], c. 1941.
Laura's talk is sponsored by the University of Virginia's departments of history and art history. I hope to see many of you there.