Robert Dawson’s work is an irrefutable argument for the preservation of public libraries. His book is profound and heartbreakingly beautiful."
The Public Library: An American Commons
The 19th century marked a strong correlation between the American public library movement and the movement for public education. People understood that the future of democracy is contingent on an educated citizenry. During this time, most felt that every citizen should have the right of free access to community-owned resources. These ideas coalesced into today’s public libraries, which function as a system of non-commercial centers that help us define what we value and what we share.
Today there are almost 17,000 public libraries in the United States. In 1994, Robert Dawson began to photograph hundreds of libraries in forty-eight states, crafting a photographic survey of public libraries throughout the nation. These photographs capture a vibrant and essential, yet threatened, system. In 2014, Princeton Architectural Press published Dawson’s book, The Public Library: A Photographic Essay, with contributions from Bill Moyers, E.B. White, Anne Lamott, Amy Tan, Barbara Kingsolver, and many more. In this lecture, Robert Dawson will share the development of this monumental project.
Lecturer in Photography, Stanford; Photographer; Author
Robert Dawson’s books include Robert Dawson Photographs; The Great Central Valley: California’s Heartland; Farewell, Promised Land: Waking From the California Dream, and A Doubtful River. His latest book is The Public Library: A Photographic Essay.His photographs are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Library of Congress. He has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Graham Foundation grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and a Dorothea Lange−Paul Taylor Prize.