Only skin deep: changing visions of the American self

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International Center of Photography/Harry N. Abrams, 2003 - Photography - 416 pages
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What role has photography played in shaping our ideas about race, nation, and selfhood? How has the camera been used to construct and contrast images of racial difference? To create or debunk stereotypes and romantic myths about specific ethnic groups? This groundbreaking book is the first to thoroughly investigate the impact that photography has had on race and racial identity in America--among the most profound and explosive issues in our nation's history and everyday life. From Dorothea Lange's portrait of Mexican braceros brought to the United States as farm workers, to Anthony Aziz & Sammy Cucher's digitally manipulated, idealized nudes, Only Skin Deep presents historical and contemporary images and embraces a wide range of genres and movements, including portraiture, social documentary, ethnographic photography, fine-art photography, and photojournalism. Complementing the images are four original essays on race and photography, eight reprint essays that have served as foundational documents in the discussion of race, and five case studies that focus more narrowly on representations of specific cultural groups. The book will accompany a national touring exhibition prepared by the International Center of Photography in New York.

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Only skin deep: changing visions of the American self

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Written to accompany the traveling exhibition of the same name prepared by the International Center of Photography (ICP), this book is much more than an exhibition record or expansion of a show's ... Read full review

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I hadn't come across Coco Fusco's work before reading Only Skin Deep, but found this collection of essays really interesting - particularly the observations made about the centrality of photography in American visual culture. Throughout the book - which is as much a photographic narrative as it is a series of think pieces about the history of photography and the integral issues about its relationships with 'race' and representation - the contributors challenge popular discourses which attempt to separate art and 'race' so that photographic works are only ever critiqued in terms of aesthetic criteria. Fusco herself states that Only Skin Deep is about how photography acts as a site and agent for the enunciation of racial history in the USA, concluding that "...all forms of photography have been created and used to prove and disprove the validity of racial theories while shaping an image of the American nation and its citizenry." The book presents some thought-provoking essays and images...the most poignant of them all (for me) being Leigh Raiford's chapter on 'The Consumption of Lynching Images' 


Directors Foreword 267 The Consumption of Lynching Images
Racial Time Racial Marks 275 Exposure
The Theoretical Status of

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About the author (2003)

Coco Fusco is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist and writer. Fusco's performances and videos have been included in such events as The Whitney Biennial, Sydney Biennale, The Johannesburg Biennial, The Kwangju Biennale, The Shanghai Biennale,VideoBrasil and Performa 05. A recipient of a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, she is an associate professor at Columbia University.

Wallis is Director of Exhibitions and Chief Curator at the International Center of Photography. He was formerly a curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York and Senior Editor at Art in America. He has organized numerous exhibitions and is currently coorganizing ICP's first Triennial survey of international photography.