Inside the Box: Photography and the Portfolio Format
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 12:14 by Molly Kalkstein
Photography portfolios—published sets of loose photographs housed in a folder or box—have been produced continuously since at least the 1850s, but have rarely received serious critical attention as a distinct format. This thesis focuses on mid-twentieth-century limited edition portfolios and argues that they were informed by, and have contributed to, developments in photography more broadly. It provides a historical survey of the photography portfolio; considers its material, expressive, and commercial qualities, particularly in comparison to the photography book; and presents five case studies comprising eight portfolios produced between 1940 and 1972: Paul Strand’s Photographs of Mexico (1940) and The Mexican Portfolio (1967); Ansel Adams’s Portfolio One (1948); Berenice Abbott’s 20 Photographs by Eugène Atget 1856–1927 (1956); Lee Friedlander and Jim Dine’s Photographs & Etchings (1969); and Les Krims’s The Deerslayers, The Little People of America 1971, and The Incredible Case of the Stack O’Wheats Murders (1972).