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Inside the Box: Photography and the Portfolio Format

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posted on 2021-05-23, 12:14 authored 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).



Master of Arts


Photographic Preservation and Collections Management

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type