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Study in Black and White


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Table of Contents

ContentsList of IllustrationsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Strange Effects and Photographic Pleasures: Race, Science, and Early Photography2. The Darkey Photographer: Camera Comedy and the Minstrel Stage3. Look Pleasant, Please! A Social History of the Photographic Smile4. Writing the Self Through Others: Racial Humor and the Photographic Postcard5. Revival and Subversion: Snapshot Performances from Kodak to Kara WalkerNotesSelected BibliographyIndex

About the Author

Tanya Sheehan is William R. Kenan Jr. Associate Professor of Art at Colby College. She is the author of Doctored: The Medicine of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America, also published by Penn State University Press.


"Working at the intersection of race, humor, and photography studies, this important new book supplies a new lens through which to view all of these disciplines. Tanya Sheehan has taken the field of racialized humor in an original direction through a rigorous and nuanced examination of the impact of photography upon visual humor from the nineteenth century to the present. Particularly fascinating is Sheehan's consideration of camera comedy and the minstrel stage, both in America and abroad. Eminently readable, Study in Black and White is both appealing and illuminating."-Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University

"Readers of American art and visual culture interested in critical race studies, transnational exchange, and the movement of ideas between media, particularly performance and visual art, will benefit from Sheehan's historically grounded and convincing accounts that offer new perspectives on US racial discourse within and through photography."-caa.reviews

"A remarkable reflection on photography and performance in cultural history. By reexamining humor and questioning popular images that demoralized and uplifted the black portrait in early photography, Tanya Sheehan introduces her unease as a reader of such imagery while interweaving the scholar's critical eye on representations of black people globally and over time. Brilliant and pioneering!"-Deborah Willis, author of Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present

"Ubiquitous and often insidious, racial humor is a pervasive form of American cultural expression. Tanya Sheehan's insightful and well-researched Study in Black and White: Photography, Race, Humor moves beyond the laughs to examine how humor in the photographic medium has been employed and deployed as an agent, a conduit, and a dog whistle in America's complex negotiation of race and representation."-Adrienne L. Childs, Associate, W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center, Harvard University

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