Shot in Alabama by Frances Osborn Robb is a visual and textual narrative of Alabama’s photographic history from 1839 to 1941. It describes the phenomenon of photography as practiced in Alabama as a major cultural force, paying close attention to the particular contexts from which each image emerges and the fragments of microhistory that each image documents.
Presented chronologically—from the very first photograph ever taken in the state to the appearance of cameras as commonplace possessions in mid-twentieth-century households—Robb draws into sharp relief the eras of daguerreotypes, Civil War photography, photographic portraiture at the end of the nineteenth century, urban and rural photography in the early twentieth century, WPA photography during the Great Depression, postcards and tourist photography, and pre–World War II illustrated books and art photographs. Robb also examines a wide spectrum of vernacular photography: Alabama-made photographs of everyday people and places, the photographs that fill dresser drawers and shoeboxes, a vast array of unusual images against which Alabama’s more typical iconography can be measured.
She also chronicles the work of hundreds of photographers—black and white, amateur and professional, women and men—some little-known outside their communities, some of them the medium’s most important practitioners. “Who Shot Alabama?” is an accompanying appendix that includes 1,400 photographers by name, working dates, and location—a resource that will help countless individuals, families, and archives identify the specific Alabama photographers whose names appear on family photographs or those in institutional collections.
Shot in Alabama is an insightful document of photography as both a communicator and creator of social, cultural, economic, and visual history. It highlights the very personal worlds rendered by individual photographs as well as the larger panorama of Alabama history as seen through the photographs collectively. A landmark work of research, curation, and scholarship, it fills the void of published history on Alabama photography and is an invaluable resource for historians, archivists, librarians, collectors, hobbyists, and readers with an interest in Alabama history or historic photography. Shot in Alabama is a book that all Alabamians will want on their coffee tables.