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October 2005
248 pages  
66 figures, 141 plates
Hardcover $55.00 Add to cart

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Luke Swank
Modernist Photographer
Bossen , Howard
Replete with both biographical and analytical information, Howard Bossen’s book reintroduces the important work of photographer Luke Swank.

Winner of an Outstanding Academic Title Award from Choice Magazine (2006).

Read a press release about this book
Howard Bossen is a professor of journalism and an adjunct curator at the Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University. He is guest curator of the Carnegie Museum of Art exhibit Luke Swank: Modernist Photographer. Bossen is also the author of Henry Holmes Smith: Man of Light, a biography of this photographer, educator, and critic.
“Swank was one of the best photographers of his (or any) era. [Luke Swank] by Howard Bossen goes a long way toward reintroducing us to Swank and his work. It's a hefty edition that tells us about Swank's life, gives context to the man's work and beautifully reproduces more than 140 of his images. . . . These are pictures that have become more than art and more than documentation. They connect us . . . to the past in a way that's at once frighteningly real and exhilarating.” -Pittsburgh Post-Gazette--Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“It is thrilling when a lost American artist is brought back into deserving light, and that is the gift Howard Bossen has given us with his rediscovery of the work of Luke Swank: both a thirties documentarian and photographic explorer of modernism.”—Paul Hendrickson, Carnegie Mellon University

“Luke Swank is a great rediscovery. This “Flaubert of the camera’ has been forgotten and overlooked until this timely and beautifully illustrated reappraisal by Howard Bossen.”—Pamela Glasson Roberts, former curator, Royal Photographic Society, England

“The fact that the work of Pittsburgh photographer Luke Swank has not received the kind of analysis or understanding it deserves has been corrected in this well-researched book by Howard Bossen. It affords the contemporary reader an opportunity to see a great deal more of Swank's images than previously has been possible, and to place them within better known photographic works of the 1930s.” —Naomi Rosenblum, photographic historian

“With the publication of Professor Bossen's book on Luke Swank an important photographer is rediscovered, not only for Western Pennsylvania but for the history of photography in our country. Swank produced a significant body of work-he was a modernist working on Pittsburgh neighborhood streets and in the steel mills. He also loved the countryside and the circus. Now, because of Professor Bossen's scholarship we are given the gift of Swank's stunningly memorable images within the context of his life. Luke Swank is a photographer whose work should and will now be known to a large audience with the publication of this book.”—Charlee Brodsky, University of Pennsylvania

"An excellent addition to the canon of American Photography.”--Black & White Magazine, April 2006

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Table of Contents
Art/Photography Read a selection from this book

Luke Swank: Modernist Photographer reintroduces the work of an important artist who had been relegated to virtual anonymity after his untimely death in 1944. As both a biography of Swank (1890-1944) and an analysis of his work, the book focuses on his essential contribution to the modernist movement and positions Swank alongside contemporaries Edward Weston, Margaret Bourke-White, and Walker Evans. In 1930, at age forty, Luke Swank was selling cars in his hometown of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Just two years later, his five-part photo mural “Steel Plant” was featured in Murals by American Painters and Photographers, the first show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York to include photography. Although Swank’s images share stylistic similarities with many of the modernists, they also reveal his unique visual poetry. His compositional exploration, technical virtuousity, and use of intense highlight and shadow and geometric forms and lines affirm his contributions to the modernist movement and the emerging art of photography.


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