Shot in Alabama by Frances Osborn Robb

Shot in Alabama by Frances Osborn Robb is a visual and textual narrative of Alabama’s photographic history from 1839 to 1941. It describes the phenomenon of photography as practiced in Alabama as a major cultural force, paying close attention to the particular contexts from which each image emerges and the fragments of microhistory that each image documents.


Presented chronologically—from the very first photograph ever taken in the state to the appearance of cameras as commonplace possessions in mid-twentieth-century households—Robb draws into sharp relief the eras of daguerreotypes, Civil War photography, photographic portraiture at the end of the nineteenth century, urban and rural photography in the early twentieth century, WPA photography during the Great Depression, postcards and tourist photography, and pre–World War II illustrated books and art photographs. Robb also examines a wide spectrum of vernacular photography: Alabama-made photographs of everyday people and places, the photographs that fill dresser drawers and shoeboxes, a vast array of unusual images against which Alabama’s more typical iconography can be measured.


She also chronicles the work of hundreds of photographers—black and white, amateur and professional, women and men—some little-known outside their communities, some of them the medium’s most important practitioners. “Who Shot Alabama?” is an accompanying appendix that includes 1,400 photographers by name, working dates, and location—a resource that will help countless individuals, families, and archives identify the specific Alabama photographers whose names appear on family photographs or those in institutional collections.


Shot in Alabama is an insightful document of photography as both a communicator and creator of social, cultural, economic, and visual history. It highlights the very personal worlds rendered by individual photographs as well as the larger panorama of Alabama history as seen through the photographs collectively. A landmark work of research, curation, and scholarship, it fills the void of published history on Alabama photography and is an invaluable resource for historians, archivists, librarians, collectors, hobbyists, and readers with an interest in Alabama history or historic photography. Shot in Alabama is a book that all Alabamians will want on their coffee tables.


Huntsville resident Frances Osborn Robb has spent twenty-five years researching Alabama photographers and photographs while serving as a consultant on the state’s cultural history and historic photography for museums, archives, and libraries. She has curated or advised on many exhibitions, including Made in Alabama: A State Legacy and the award-winning exhibition In View of Home: Alabama Landscape Photographs. In her search for information and images, she has visited every county in Alabama and roamed as far as Maine and California to study photographs in institutional repositories and family collections.


“Shot in Alabama will prove to be an invaluable resource for historians, archivists, librarians, collectors, hobbyists, and others who may have an interest in Alabama history or historic photography.”

—The Montgomery Independent


“Shot in Alabama is an extraordinary, first-rate overview of photography in this state, from the introduction of daguerreotypes in 1839 to the beginning of US involvement in World War II, which Robb explains was itself a watershed in Alabama photography.”

—Martin T. Olliff, editor of The Great War in the Heart of Dixie: Alabama during World War I


“Frances Robb has always had a meticulous and discerning eye when it comes to looking at photographs. We photographers value this eye in helping us understand the patterns and nuances of our images. Now everyone can have access to Robb’s marvelous eye within the pages of Shot in Alabama, a first-ever compilation of the evolving, hundred-year span of photography in Alabama. These vernacular images have subtle power equal to that of many of the better-known iconic images of Alabama. This is a stunning collection of images that show how the people of Alabama lived and evolved during their formation as a state and into the early years of World War II. It is beautiful and haunting and at the same time gives new life to a time now past.”

—Chip Cooper, author and photographer of Old Havana: Spirit of the Living City and Campesinos: Inside the Soul of Cuba


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