In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and the Three Mormon Towns Collaboration, 1953-1954

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University of Utah Press
Publish Date
8.5 X 0.8 X 10.0 inches | 2.65 pounds
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About the Author

James R. Swensen is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at Brigham Young University. He is the author of Picturing Migrants: The Grapes of Wrath and New Deal Documentary Photography and the recipient of the 2016-2019 Butler Young Scholar Award from the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies.


"High-echelon photo-journalism isn't what's thought of in the work of Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams. Yet the Three Mormon Towns project is that--and more. Two confident veteran photographers in 1954 went in, captured remarkable images, crafted a story for Life, roiled the rural Mormon residents who opened their doors, and stirred a hornet's nest that affected the later work of each artist. James Swensen's study is a wondrous testament to the sometimes fearsome consequence of fieldwork and the costs of collaboration."
--Paul Starrs, author of Let the Cowboy Ride: Cattle Ranching in the American West

"I am strongly impressed by the depth of Swensen's research and his willingness to interview people he could locate who were living in those towns at the time of the project. This book...deserves to be read for all that it has to say, and show, about life in that corner of Utah, where all three towns are still alive, along with all those not photographed by Lange and Adams."
--Association for Mormon Letters
"Although this collaborative project is not well known today, it illuminates a pivotal era in the history of rural Utah and Mormonism and showcases the immense talent of Adams and Lange. Three Mormon Towns deserves to be remembered and commemorated. Thanks to this book it will be."
--Brian Q. Cannon, coauthor of The Awkward State of Utah