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“The Changing Face of Portrait Photography: From Daguerreotype to Digital”

In her new book, “The Changing face of Portrait Photography,” National Museum of American History photographic history curator Shannon Thomas Perich explores portraiture through the stories of 9 photographers and 1 studio the various influences of sitters, photographers and consumers.

The 130+ single-sitter portraits of both famous and ordinary Americans dating from the 19th to 21st century are all drawn from the museum’s Photographic History Collection (PHC). The PHC was established in 1896 and has expansive holding of 200,000 images representing the work of over 24,000 photographers, and 12,000 pieces of equipment and photographic apparatus. Due to the expansive holding of the PHC, all images selected for the book are of single sitters creating a kind of visual continuity.

The book identifies the social variables that shape the visual images of the past, including cultural norms, popular media, technology and artistic and intellectual concerns. This examination encourages readers in today’s visually rich culture to expand what they know about how photographs work in nonverbal ways. As stated by Perich herself, “this knowledge produces savvy consumers of images that can better question and understand pictures that confront us daily.” Through her book, Perich reminds readers that history is about people and that even as culture and technology have evolved over time, a constant variable remains— we are all human. Shannon Thomas Perich first decided to become a curator of photography while interning at the Center for Creative Photography during her undergraduate years. She is fascinated by the vast angles photography can be approached and the overt and subversive ways in which it affects society. In addition to “The Changing Face of Portrait Photography,” Perich has published a number of other books and articles including “The Kennedys: Portrait of a Family, with Richard Avedon,” and the afterword in Henry Horenstein’s book “Close Relations.” She is an active blogger for National Public Radio and the National Museum of American History.

About the Book:
By Shannon Thomas Perich
The National Museum of American History in association with The Smithsonian Institution Scholarly Press
On Sale: October 18, 2011
Hardcover, $35.00
176 pages