Book Awards | Visual Arts

James Swensen Wins the 15 Bytes Book Award for Art Book

James Swensen has been awarded this year’s 15 Bytes Book Award in the Art Book category for his scholarly publication In a Rugged Land: Ansel Adams, Dorothea Lange, and the Three Mormon Towns Collaboration, 1953-1954, published by University of Utah Press.

“Swensen’s book is a fascinating and detailed look at a unique artistic collaboration,” says 15 Bytes editor Shawn Rossiter, about the Brigham Young University professor’s examination of “Three Mormon Towns,” a photo-essay by Dorothea Lange and Ansel Adams published by Life magazine on September 6, 1954. “Fascinating not only because of what he reveals about the working relationship between the two artists, but also because of their relationship with the small communities they were covering and the mass media they used as their outlet — all of these issues resonate with artists who work today on public projects.”

Swensen is an associate professor of art history and the history of photography at Brigham Young University. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in 2009. His research interests include documentary photography, American photography in the 1930s and 1970s, and the art and photography of Utah and the American West.

In naming the book as a finalist for the prize, the jurors said: “Rich with historical context and insight into how Lange and Adams worked together, Swensen’s book goes beyond a description of the photographic process and a discussion of the subsequent photo-essay. Swensen adeptly weaves a narrative that contextualizes the outsider interest in Mormon communities, the change that photography as a medium and profession was undergoing at the time, and how the publication of the essay was perceived.”

Christine Baczek reviewed the book for us here.

Since 2013, Artists of Utah has recognized excellence in publishing associated with Utah and Utah writers with its annual 15 Bytes Book Awards. Books published in the previous calendar year written by a Utah writer or with a Utah connection are considered by a panel of invited jurors in the categories of art book, fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction. A small cash prize is awarded to the winner.

Chalk: The Art and Erasure of Cy Twombly (Melville House) by Joshua Rivkin and Collecting on the Edge (Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art) edited by Bolton Colburn were finalists for this year’s art book award. See here for more on the finalists.

Winners of the 15 Bytes Book Awards in other categories will be announced on the following schedule:
July 1: Fiction
August 1: Poetry
September 1: Creative Nonfiction

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