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Title: Between the Landscape and its Other
Author: Professor Paul Vanderbilt
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Paul Vanderbilt called himself an "iconographer" - and his achievements define the term. From 1942 to 1945, he transformed the files of Roy Stryker's Farm Security Administration photographic survey into an innovative historical resource, now treasured for its ability to suggest surprising connections and new directions for study. As archivist and curator for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, he pioneered intuitive, unorthodox approaches to organizing vast collections of visual materials. In the course of his remarkable career, Vanderbilt revolutionized the way we see and use representations of all kinds - and turned "filing" into an art form. "Between the Landscape and Its Other" is literally a life's work, illustrating and explaining Vanderbilt's most important ideas about visual images. The book features 50 of the famous "pairings" of his landscape photographs from the 1960s with archival photographs from the renowned collection he developed in Madison. In each case, the images appear unrelated. But connections emerge intuitively - according to Vanderbilt, by the same unconscious process that organizes mental images into complex and revealing composites. Vanderbilt's evocative text, along with quotations from James Agee, Robert Frost, Catherine Duncan, Igor Stravinsky, and others, further extends possible meanings and relationships. Throughout the book, Vanderbilt addresses both theoretical and practical details of his work. He describes how he selects and organizes photographs for display. For six of the pairings, he provides extensive analysis of how the images work together to suggest "qualities that can not be photographed directly". He comments on art, photography, landscape, language, psychology, values, and the "illusions of definition". And he explains his own approach to landscape photography, relating his concern for "character, aura, and magic". "Between the Landscape and Its Other" is an elegant summation of Vanderbilt's lifelong convictions: that pursuit is more valuable than achievement, that final truth is never attainable, that art is a viewpoint rather than a medium, and that science is not the only - or the definitive - kind of knowledge. Paul Vanderbilt was an art museum librarian, a consultant in iconography at the Library of Congress, editor of Roy Stryker's Farm Security Administration photographic survey of America, and curator/archivist and field photographer for the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. He died in 1992, while this book was in its final stages of production.
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