The Questionable Uses of 19th Century Photographs in Visual Research: Wisconsin Death Trip as Case Study

Smith, C. Zoe
April 1998
Journal of Visual Literacy;Spring98, Vol. 18 Issue 1, p47
Academic Journal
Dr. Michael Lesy's 1973 book, Wisconsin Death Trip, is among the most controversial pieces of historical scholarship that uses photo- graphs as evidence. Published as an extension of his dissertation research, the book has been widely reviewed in both the popular and academic press, and was republished in 1991. This article provides a critique of Lesy's use of photographic evidence within his book. While recognizing the role of photography as a subject worthy of academic study, the author points out problems with the way that Lesy has used the photographs to support his research.


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