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American Photography: A Critical History 1945-1980

Jonathan Green


Starting with his work at MIT with Minor White, Jonathan Green was part of the massive cultural shift that saw photography move from the fringes of the art world to its core. American Photography: A Critical History 1945-1980 represents Green’s attempt to synthesize what he experienced first hand within the larger context of American culture.

       Less a history than a collection of historical essays, American Photography provides insights at every turn: especially memorable is “Aperture in the Fifties,” which situates Minor White in the same Zen cultural underground that included the Beats and small presses. Spread across the center of the book, James Friedman's idiosynchratic sequence of photographs goes beyond illustration to create its own significant meaning.

       The most inspiring theme of American Photography is actually Green’s passion for the medium, pursued through a long view of American life that is always generous, intelligent, and hopeful. By contemporary standards, American Photography: A Critical History is neither critical nor history, but it remains a vital—almost impervious—witness to the ambitions guiding mid-century American photographic culture and its various practitioners, Jonathan Green included.

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