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Double Exposure

Resurveying the West with Timothy O'Sullivan, America's Most Mysterious War Photographer

Robert Sullivan



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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
23 April 2024
"""Singular . . . Virtuosic . . . Double Exposure is the best book I've read about America [. . .] in many, many years."" --Corey Seymour, Vogue

""Extraordinary . . . A transformative experience for the reader."" --Lucy Sante

""A large-hearted, wide-angled book . . . I couldn't put it down."" --Ian Frazier

A personal exploration of the American West and the work of one of America's greatest photographers.

Timothy O'Sullivan is America's most famous war photographer. You know his work even if you don't know his name: A Harvest of Death, taken at Gettysburg, is an icon of the Civil War. He was also among the first photographers to elevate what was then a trade to the status of fine art. The images of the American West he made after the war, while traveling with the surveys led by Clarence King and George Wheeler, display a prescient awareness of what photography would become; years later, Ansel Adams would declare his work ""surrealistic and disturbing.""

At the same time, we know very little about O'Sullivan himself. Nor do we know--really know--much more about the landscapes he captured. Robert Sullivan's Double Exposure sets off in pursuit of these two enigmas. This book documents the author's own road trip across the West in search of the places, many long forgotten or paved over, that O'Sullivan pictured. It also stages a reckoning with how the changes wrought on the land were already under way in the 1860s and '70s, and how these changes were a continuation of the Civil War by other means. Sullivan, known for his probing investigations of place in the pages of The New Yorker and books like Rats and My American Revolution, has produced a work that, like O'Sullivan's magisterial photos of geysers and hot springs, exposes a fissure in the American landscape itself."
Imprint:   Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Dimensions:   Height: 231mm,  Width: 163mm,  Spine: 38mm
Weight:   662g
ISBN:   9780374151164
ISBN 10:   0374151164
Pages:   448
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Robert Sullivan is the author of numerous books, including Rats, The Meadowlands, A Whale Hunt, and My American Revolution. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, A Public Space, and Vogue. He was born in New York City, worked for many years in Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is the recipient of a 2022 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Reviews for Double Exposure: Resurveying the West with Timothy O'Sullivan, America's Most Mysterious War Photographer

"""A fascinating account of a crucial photographer of westward expansion and a reckoning with the colonization of the American West . . . Sullivan's research is meticulous and his storytelling engaging. O'Sullivan is an intriguing figure, but what is most fascinating is the author's examination of westward expansion as a kind of war of both arms and ideas . . . A riveting, highly valuable reexamination."" --Kirkus Reviews (starred review) ""A compelling, haunted work of living history."" --Booklist (starred review) ""A large-hearted, wide-angled book, gutsy in the extreme, that cinches the reader tight to some of the most powerful landscapes in America. Robert Sullivan follows the nineteenth-century footsteps of photographer Timothy O'Sullivan, reports with artistry and passion on what they both saw, and makes you love the country in its darkness as well as its light. The double story--Sullivan's and O'Sullivan's--and the pinpoint details drew me in so I couldn't put it down."" --Ian Frazier, author of Cranial Fracking and On the Rez ""An astonishment, a terror, a revelation, of what can and cannot be seen. Double Exposure is a survey and a memoir--an investigation--of spectacle frozen in time, bleeding across a dangerous American land. 'Light is alive, ' writes Sullivan, and so, too, are these brilliant pages; they shimmer with vision. Sullivan's masterpiece should change the way we see past and present, this country and our many troubled selves."" --Jeff Sharlet, bestselling author of The Undertow: Scenes from a Slow Civil War ""Robert Sullivan's extraordinary book wears many hats: it is a biography of a phantom; an important slice of photographic history; a profound meditation on the American landscape; a reckoning with the legacies of slavery, the Civil War, and the war against the indigenous population; and a deep personal journey for the author on top of that. It is just as transformative an experience for the reader."" --Lucy Sante, author of Low Life and I Heard Her Call My Name"

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