Complete bibliography of David Plowden's books, click here.

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“No one has photographed America as has David Plowden. He is one of the great artists of our time.”

— David McCullough ​

Among many of David Plowden's books currently in print are those shown below, other titles, although out of print, are widely offered through a variety of venues and can be found through a simple web search.

Heartland: The Plains and The Prairie, W.W. Norton & Company, 2013


The great Midwestern landscape is celebrated by the noted photographer in magnificent reproductions of his work.


When David Plowden traveled from his native East Coast to the Midwest, he was stunned by the landscape Whitman described. In the years that followed he became enthralled by its vast open spaces and wildly changing skies. Fields of wheat, grain, and corn, farms and grain elevators became the subjects of his photographs. The best of his work over the past thirty-five years is presented here, impeccably reproduced in a generous format that does justice to the work of one of America’s foremost photographers and printmakers.

October 2013 · $75 hardcover ($79 Canada) • Territory W • isbn 978-0-393-07060-6 • 12" x 11" • 125 pages • 57 photographs • all images copyright © 2013 by David Plowden

David Plowden's Iowa, Humainties Iowa, 2012; Introduction by Rima Girnius

"…While I know the standard claim is that Yosemite, Niagara Falls, the upper Yellowstone and the like, afford the greatest natural shows, I am not so sure but the Prairies and Plains, while less stunning at first sight, last longer, fill the esthetic sense fuller, precede all the rest, and make North America’s characteristic landscape."

— Walt Whitman, Specimen Days, 1892


David Plowden’s Iowa, a book featuring four decades of the acclaimed photographer’s images of Iowa, contains over 70 pages of photographs, along with an introductory essay by Rima Girnius, PhD, that interprets Plowden’s Iowa photos and places them firmly within the context of his illustrious career.


"For David Plowden, Whitman’s words, which hang above his desk in his Winnetka, Illinois home, are embodied by Iowa, the place that for him most typifies the values associated with the Midwest (and congruently the United States)." [...] "His black and white photographs should not be understood as mere records of a geographic location but as impressions of a uniquely American place." 

— Rima Girnius, from David Plowden's Iowa

Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010

Stunning photographs by a master photographer documenting the last of the steam locomotives.


As a child, David Plowden was given a box camera, and before long he began to photograph railroad trains. As he matured and started on what would become a lifetime in photography, trains―specifically steam locomotives―became one of his passions, and then they were eclipsed by modern diesel locomotives. It is our good fortune that Plowden was on the scene at the end, documenting what would become this book, his reverent tribute to the steam era. 140 tritone photos

David Plowden: Vanishing Point: Fifty Years of Photographs,
W.W. Norton & Company, 2007; Introduction by Steve Edwards

David Plowden’s beautiful black-and-white images reveal his great respect for man’s ingenuity and honest work, documenting a disappearing landscape of industry, small towns, wonderful devices, and noble structures. David McCullough writes, “Plowden has produced some of the most powerful photographs we have of man-made America. He is propelled, driven, by a sense of time running out and the feeling that he must not just make a record, but confer a kind of immortality on certain aspects of American civilization before they vanish.” As Walker Evans gave us the first half of the twentieth century, David Plowden has given us the second. David Plowden: Vanishing Point represents the best of this magnificent body of work.

This volume is both a tribute to and a celebration of the photographer who, more than anyone else, has given us a visual record of our mark on the land over the last half-century.

A Handful of Dust: Disappearing America, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006


Since making his earliest documentary photographs in the 1950s, David Plowden has honored those proud structures and places that America has discarded; from brawny commercial and industrial centers to small towns and farms. He reveres the honest work and spirit that built them. But the scene has changed much in the last five decades, and what's left of the honesty of small communities and the working of the land is all but gone, dealt a death blow by outsourcing, conglomerization, and our incessant drive to buy cheap at any cost. The America of these photographs is a bittersweet reminder of things once cherished and a life no longer possible. Deserted Main Streets and crumbling facades stare at us blindly. Abandoned houses and buildings reach back to ground. Plowden's work is a sad symphony; incomparably and irresistibly beautiful, while reminding us of our loss. 77 duotone photographs

David Plowden: The American Barn, W.W. Norton & Company, 2003

A tribute to the barn by the master documentarian of our time.

As an elemental part of our landscape and our history, barns evoke childhood memories for many of us, recollections of a simpler way of life. Regardless of their size or shape, their forms follow their functions. They are honest. They are beautiful. And they are rapidly vanishing. Across the land we see abandoned farms with barns falling down, being torn down, and only occasionally being converted to other uses. As urban sprawl eats up the countryside and food-producing Goliaths put small farmers out of business, the need for old barns has diminished. For most of his life as a photographer, David Plowden has admired and photographed barns. In recent years, as their disappearance accelerated, he made it his mission to document these beautiful structures, before they too are lost. The result is this beautiful book, his hymn to the American barn. 130 duotone photographs

Bridges: The Spans of North America, W.W. Norton & Company, 2002

Whether built of wood, stone, iron, steel, or concrete, bridges have captivated our imaginations more than any other man-made structures. In David Plowden's words, "there is no more overt, powerful, or rational expression of accomplishment―of man's ability to build." And Americans, in particular, have excelled in this structural art. This book explores in depth how, when, where, and by whom the most important North American bridges were built. Over 185 of Plowden's superb photographs allow us to dwell on the most important scientific and aesthetic qualities of each bridge. In addition, Plowden has included original designs and drawings of structures ― some unbuilt, gone, or dramatically altered―illuminating less obvious aspects of these engineering marvels and introducing us to bridges we otherwise would never have seen. In his extensive text, Plowden vividly records the discoveries, misconceptions, struggles, failures, and triumphs of the men who dedicated their energies to bridge design and construction.

Imprints: A Retrospective, Bulfinch Press, 1997; Introduction by Alan Trachtenberg

From small towns and cityscapes to railroads and bridges, David Plowden has devoted his career to memorializing the vestiges of America's industrial and rural past. In his photographs and writings, he explores the beauty, power, blight, and significance of these once commonplace icons and vistas - and captures the visual texture of a bygone America on the verge of vanishing. His work is clear-eyed, rigorous, and ultimately ambivalent rather than nostalgic; steel mills, for instance, are "at once magnificent and apocalyptic - a definitive expression of mankind's inherently productive and creative, as well as destructive, nature." This book, published in conjunction with a series of retrospective exhibitions across America, looks back over Plowden's entire career and presents the very best of his work. The 170 dramatic black-and-white photographs presented here brilliantly record the struggle between civilization and nature, old and new.

End of an Era: The Last of the Great Lakes Steamboats, W.W. Norton & Company, 1992

They mark our age

as a race of men;

earth shall not see

such ships as these again.

       —John Masefield​


From freighters in motion and intricate machinery in the engine room, to the men who operate and maintain the vessels, these photographs represent a testament to the vanishing era of steam.


Since the mid-1850s when coal-fired, reciprocating-engined steamboats were first heralded as a swift and reliable method of freight transportation, these majestic vessels have criss-crossed the Great Lakes transporting everything from coal to iron ore and cement. Until the advent of the diesel locomotive engine, the speed and efficiency of the lake freighters was unchallenged. Today, however, the massive fleet has been reduced to a handful, and soon may be extinct.