Director of Media Relations
AMHERST, Mass.- In the recently released book, Print the Legend: Photography and the American West ($39.95, 402 pp., Yale University Press, New Haven, 2002), Martha A. Sandweiss, professor of American studies and history at Amherst College, offers a cultural history of photography in the American West during the 19th century that tracks how the new medium of photography created and shaped popular understanding of the region.
Photography and the American West came of age together. The story narrated in this lavishly illustrated book begins just a few years after the 1839 invention of the daguerreotype, as photographers followed American troops into the Mexican-American War. Photographers were among the pioneers on the overland trails, recording gold seekers and Native Americans, and documenting the spectacular topography of the American West. The new medium made vivid a landscape few Americans had seen for themselves. Resurrecting scores of little-known images of the 19th-century American West, Print the Legend offers tales of ambitious photographic adventurers, missing photographs and misinterpreted images. Sandweiss shows how Americans first came to understand western photographs and, consequently, to envision their nation.
A member of the Amherst College faculty since 1989, Sandweiss was also the director of the Mead Art Museum from 1989 until 1997, and formerly the curator of photographs at the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth, Tex. She received her Ph.D., M.Phil. and M.A. degrees in history from Yale University, and a B.A. from Radcliffe College. She is the author of Laura Gilpin: An Enduring Grace (1986), co-author of Eyewitness to War: Prints and Daguerreotypes of the Mexican War, 1846-1848 (1989), editor of Photography in Nineteenth-Century America (1991), co-editor of The Oxford History of the American West (1994) and a contributor to numerous volumes on the art and photography of the American West.