PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE 1950: THE STRAIGHT IMAGE
IN 1850 IT WOULD HAVE BEEN unusual
to meet someone who had handled a camera or looked at a photograph;
100 years later the reverse would have been true. The camera had
become a ubiquitous device, its basic techniques easily mastered by
even the clumsiest and least sophisticated person. By 1950,
photographic images in silver, in colored dyes, and in printer's ink
had penetrated all parts of the globe, through all layers of
society, and had become the daily visual diet of everyone living in
the urban centers of the West. In the second half of the 20th
century, the photograph has been perceived as the paramount means of
visual communication, attracting gifted and imaginative artists as
well as commercial practitioners and amateurs, and infiltrating the
art marketplace as a commodity while continuing to fulfill
established roles in communications and advertising. Traditional
photographic methods and materials continued to be refined
throughout this period until the 1980s. Then, the discovery of ways
to produce images electronically and alter them by computer
relegated many aspects of conventional photography to the dustbin at
the same time that it raised still-unresolved issues about
authorship, copyright, and truthfulness.
After the second World War,
photographs became more pervasive than ever before, in large part
due to the weekly picture magazines, which continued to be popular
through the 1970s despite increasing competition from television.
With their accomplished reportage, seductive advertising, and
striking scientific pictures made possible by new techniques in
aerial photography and microphotography, picture
journals helped prepare the way for public acceptance of a wide
range of imagery— abstractions, series, color, and visual
manipulations of various kinds. In the late 1960s and '70s,
photographs earned greater respect as individual objects; they began
to be reproduced more frequendy in book format, exhibited more often
in galleries and museums, and collected with more enthusiasm by
private individuals and business enterprises. As a result, their
history and provenance became subjects of scholarly study;
concurrendy, the widespread effect of photography on perceptions of
reality and on the nature of perception itself became the stuff of
intellectual speculation. During the 1980s, the photograph was seen
not only as an object capable of affording information or pleasure
but also as a tract on which might be inscribed (sometimes in actual
words) an unmistakable social or political message.
In the years since its invention,
photography had become an international medium. That photographic
processes and concepts had traversed national boundaries with ease
owed much to competition among industrial nations in the nineteenth
century. England and France, especially, carefully monitored each
other's discoveries in all scientific and industrial fields, while
the similarity of life in industrial societies increasingly elicited
similar kinds of pictorial documentation. However, despite the
vitality of international photographic activity up through the
1930s, after World War II the wellspring of visual culture shifted
temporarily to the United States as European and Far Eastern
countries struggled to rebuild their shattered economies. Physically
undamaged by the war and entering a period of relative economic
well-being, the United States provided the conditions that
photography—and, indeed, all the visual arts—needed to flourish.
Eventually, publications, traveling exhibitions, and peripatetic
photographers on assignment acquainted Europeans with the diverse
styles of American postwar camera expression, which they enriched
with ideas originating from their own cultures.
As stability returned, camera
activity' in Europe, Latin America, and the Far East prospered. By
the 1990s, photographs made in places as far apart as China and
Eastern Europe featured ideas and modes similar to those generally
prevailing in the United States and Western Europe. In Russia, for
example, the medium has been transformed from government-sanctioned
straight reportage to a diversity of manipulative practices that
embrace postmodern themes, while Chinese photographers, long in
thrall to an idealized view of their own society, have recendy
adopted a more discerning, journalistic approach. In view of this
historical sequence, it seems logical to discuss developments in the
United States first, and in somewhat greater detail, before turning
to tendencies abroad.
UNKNOWN PHOTOGRAPHER. Mount
after the Eruption of 1944, 1944.
Gelatin silver print. Imperial War Museum, London.
Postwar Trends in the United States
Using wars as demarcations of
cultural eras may seem simplistic, but there is little question that
a new sensibility made its appearance in the United States after
World War II. As the nation began a period that was characterized
(until the mid-1960s) by domestic peace, political conformism, and
expansive consumerism, many in the arts began to grapple with
problems of pure form, with the expression of inner visions, and
with representing new perceptions of social realities. Reflecting
this trend, one significant group of photographers concentrated on
what have been called "private realities," drawing ideas and
inspiration from a variety of sources—among them, Abstract
Expressionist painting, psychoanalytic thought, Zen, and other
systems of Eastern philosophy. Others were inspired by the
photographic experimentalism implanted on American soil by refugees
who organized the American Bauhaus as well as by the tendency of
many painters to obscure the traditional line between photographic
and graphic expression by mixing their media. The
work of young photographers who continued to espouse straight
photography also exhibited subtle changes, becoming tinged by more
subjective or ironic attitudes. Alongside these new sensibilities,
traditional approaches to image-making still attracted adherents,
giving the medium extraordinary range and vitality.
The explosion of photographic
activity in the United States stemmed in part from the scholarships
given to former members of the armed forces, which enabled them to
attend art schools and colleges at government expense. This
education introduced many young people to photography as a way to
make a living and as a means of personal expression. One such
educational fountainhead was the Institute of Design in Chicago—the
American incarnation of the Bauhaus—which proposed that
photographers be first and foremost concerned with the expressive
manipulation of light, "free from cultural indoctrination." Setting
aside the social intent and Utopian ideals explicit in the original
Bauhaus programs in Weimar and Dessau, the Institute advocated a
"new vision" that was primarily dedicated to finding fresh, personal
ways of looking at the commonplace.
Of the photographers associated
with the Institute in its early days, Harry Callahan and Aaron
Siskind were the most influential in terms of their own work.
Reflecting the school's emphasis on experimentation, Callahan used
both 35mm and 8 x 10 inch formats, worked in black and white and in
color, and made multiple exposures, montages, and collages. His
straight images exemplify attempts to find a visual means of
"revealing the subject in a new way to intensify it," as in the
early Weed Against Sky, Detroit. Siskind's attraction to abstract forms in nature and in the built
world, already made visible in the architectural details he had
photographed on Martha's Vineyard during the mid-1930s, became
stronger over the next few decades as the photographer committed
himself to "relaxing beliefs ... to seeing the world clean, fresh
and alive." Acknowledging the influence of the accidental and
spontaneous gestures favored by Abstract Expressionist painters,
Siskind found in the canvases of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and
Jackson Pollock suggestions for the motifs he extracted from street
environments. Much of the experimentaiism fostered by
the Institute took the form of manipulative interventions, but a
number of graduates— including Linda Connor, Art Sinsabaugh, and
Geoffrey Winningham—applied the precepts to straight photography, at
times using unusual formats or special lenses to express a fresh
vision of reality.
Another dimension was given to
postwar photography by Minor White, whose search for allusive or
metaphorical meanings in the appearances of reality attracted a cult
following during the 1960s. Through extensive teaching and
publishing activities, White persuasively urged that photographs be
made to embody a mystic essence, that the camera reveal "tilings for
what they are" and "for what else they are." Unsympathetic to the
idea that the medium should emulate painting and drawing, White
sought instead to continue the directions in straight photography
mapped out by Srieglitz and Weston—to approach nature with a
large-format camera, a sharp lens, and an eye for equivalences
between form and feeling. Like Weston. White obliterated clues to
size and geographic locale, giving his images the enigmatic quality
seen in Moencopi Strata, Capitol Reef, Utah, a work
that is a depiction of actual rock formations, an arresting visual
design, and an invitation to sec within it whatever the viewer
Younger photographers inspired by
the intensity of White's credo and the force of Weston's images
sought in natural phenomena of all kinds forms that might express
their feelings of being at one with nature. Eroded surfaces, tangled
branches, translucent petals, watery environments, and rock
structures photographed close-up and with large-format cameras were
favored by Walter Chapell and Paul Caponigro as a
means of going beyond perception to evoke the mystic divinity in all
nature. The power of light to unlock "the greatest secrets of the
unknown"" is central also to the imagery of Wynn Bullock, a Californian who was close to Weston personally and
ideologically. A similar attitude about the transcendent meaning of
nature has inspired Linda Connor's images of sacred trees, rocks,
and waterfalls, taken in many parts of the world. Another means used
to invest the landscape with fresh regard has been to view it from
an unusual angle. William A. Garnett (pi. no. 668) and Bradford
Washington both photograph from the air, transforming the shirting
patterns of desert, eroded soil, and farmland into elegantly
structured abstractions through framing and the quality and
direction of the light. During the 1960s, this concept of the camera
image as a lofty emblem of some universal truth was challenged by
several groups—by those who believed that "the interior truth
ultimately is the only truth," by those grappling with aesthetic or
conceptual issues, and by those who responded to social realities
but in a subjective fashion. The first two groups turned to
manipulative and directorial photography; chroniclers of the social
scene continued, for the most part, to favor straight photography.
The changing character of American life, coupled with the popularity
of the 35mm camera and fresh ideas about photographic aesthetics,
also yielded a distinctive new style in straight street photography,
with the prevailing tone becoming distanced and ironic. This
approach had surfaced first in street images made in the early 1940s
by Callahan, Walker Evans, and Louis Faurer, but impetus from
Europeans working in the United States from the 1930s on also must
be recognized. One of the earliest, John Gutmann (a German artist
who arrived in 1933), focused on the urban scene in his travels
across the country. His use of the medium to record the signs and
symbols of American popular culture resembled Evans's approach in
some respects, but Gutmann's earlier exposure to German
Expressionism gave rise to a more caustic wit.
HARRY CALLAHAN. Weed Against
Sky, Detroit, 1948.
Gelatin silver print. Pace/MacGill Gallery, New York.
(b Detroit, 22 Oct 1912; d Atlanta,
GA, 15 March 1999).
American photographer. He took up
photography in 1938, at the relatively late age of 26. Ansel Adams
visited the Detroit Photo Guild in 1941 and Callahan was inspired by
his emphasis on craftsmanship and his majestic images. Callahan’s
earliest works focused on the calligraphic details of landscape,
such as the patterns of grass against snow or telephone wires
against the sky, or explored the effects of multiple exposures.
Later subjects included studies of his wife Eleanor, a series of
portraits made on Chicago’s State Street in 1950, a series of houses
at Providence, RI, and Cape Cod beachscapes begun in the 1960s.
Whether working in black and white or, later, in colour, as in Harry
Callahan: Color (New York, 1980), Callahan was committed in all his
work to what he called ‘the moment that people can’t always see’.
AARON SISKIND. NEW YORK. No.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Robert Mann Gallery.
MINOR WHITE. Moencopi Strata,
Capitol Reef, Utah, 1962.
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Purchase.
(b Minneapolis, MN, 9 July 1908; d
Boston, MA, 24 June 1976).
American photographer and writer.
He took his first photographs as a child with a Kodak Box Brownie
camera and later learnt darkroom procedures as a student at the
University of Minnesota. After graduating in 1933 with a degree in
botany and English, he wrote poetry for five years while supporting
himself with odd jobs. He moved to Portland, OR, in 1938 and became
increasingly interested in photography. During 1938–9 he worked for
the Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Project as a creative
photographer documenting the early architecture and waterfront of
Portland. In 1941 MOMA in New York exhibited several of his images.
His first one-man show, photographs of the Grande Ronde-Wallowa
Mountain area of north-eastern Oregon, opened at the Portland Art
Museum in 1942.
PAUL CAPONIGRO. Schoodic
Point, Maine, 1960.
Gelatin silver print. International Museum of Photography at George
Eastman House, Rochester, N.Y.
WYNN BULLOCK. Point Lobos
Gelatin silver print. Collection Robert E. Abrams, New York.
Wynn Bullock (April 18, 1902,
Chicago - November 16, 1975, Monterey, California) was an American
photographer that is notable for his photographs of nudes and of
landscapes on the West Coast.
He started in the 1920s with a career as a concert tenor. While
studying in Paris, he was inspired by visual artists, in particular
Cézanne, Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray. Upon his return to the US, he
focused on a career as a photographer.
He left law school to attend the Art Center School in Los Angeles.
In 1948, he met and began a lifelong friendship with Edward Weston,
a relationship that continually influenced his life as a
Bullock also explored the commercial side of photography, founding
Arrow Camera in Santa_Maria, California in 1943. Bullock ran the
business until 1952, when he sold it to Hank Datter.
Bullock's photographs are in over 90 museum collections including
The Hallmark Collection of Photography, The Museum of Modern Art,
The Center for Creative Photography, and The San Francisco Museum of
Modern Art. Some of his photographs were used by Edward Steichen in
1955 in his The Family of Man, a vast exhibition consisting of over
500 photos that depicted life, love and death in 68 countries.
WILLIAM A. GARNETT. Two Trees
on a Hill with Shadows, Paso Rabies, Califomia, 1947.
Daniel Wolf, Inc., New York.
JOHN GUTMANN. The Jump, 1939.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Castelli Graphics.
John Gutmann (1905-1998) was a
German-born American photographer and painter.
After fleeing Nazi Germany for the
United States, Gutmann acquired a job as a photographer for various
German magazines. Gutmann quickly took an interest in the American
way of life and sought to capture it through the lense of his
camera. He especially took an interest in the Jazz music scene.
Gutmann is recognized for his unique "worm's-eye view" camera angle.
He enjoyed taking photos of ordinary things and making them seem
The mordant views of bench sitters
in Monte Carlo by Lisette Model (who had been born in
Vienna, then worked in France before settling in the United States
in 1938) were followed by sardonic images she made in the streets of
New York. An influential teacher in New York, Model found a
receptive audience among young photographers, including Diane Arbus.
Robert Frank, a Swiss-born emigre, was even more dominant in
establishing a tone and style for the next generation. Awarded a
Guggenheim grant in 1955, Frank used the money to take a
photographic odyssey through the United States, working with a 35mm
Leica. As an outsider, he regarded cherished national institutions
and pastimes with detached skepticism, while his sensitive eye
transformed situations into metaphors for the factiousness and
consumerism of American postwar society. For example, in Trolley,
New Orleans, the contrasts in the facial expressions
and gestures of the riders, as well as the structural organization
of the image itself, convey without rhetoric the psychological and
emotional complexities as well as the physical divisions that
characterized racial relationships in the South. Frank's images, which were meant to be seen as a group rather
than individually, were published in book format as The Americans—
first in France and later, in 1959, in the United States. Their
irreverent, unposed, erratically framed, and sometimes blurred forms
(reflective also of their maker's anti-aesthetic attitude toward
print quality) were dismissed by American critics as too harsh but
were hailed by young Americans who had had their fill of heroes and
William Klein's raw, grating views
of New York in the 1950s were even less acceptable as a vision of
American society. Klein—an American resident of France who is a
painter, graphic designer, and filmmaker in addition to being a
fashion and street photographer—also ignored traditional precepts
about sharpness, tonal range, and print quality. His Garment Center resonates with the anxieties of modern urban
existence. Images by Frank and Klein were considered critical of the
American middle-class; another response to that group can be seen in
the derisive treatment by Diane Arbus of so-called normal
individuals and her compassion for those dismissed as bizarre by
conventional society—transvestites, homosexuals, and prostitutes,
for example. Prompted by what she termed the "ceremonies of our
present," Arbus, whose mentor was Model and whose model was Weegee, approached such outcasts without moral pre-judgment,
but when she photographed ordinary people in ordinary situations her
reaction was invariably ungenerous. Whatever her subject, she
usually favored direct, head-on poses that often mimicked the style
of the family snapshot, as in Mother Holding Her Child, N.J. —one of the most alienated images of motherhood in the history
of visual art.
Indeed, one of the signal
influences on straight camera images during the 1960s was the
"snapshot aesthetic." The appetite for naive camera imagery accorded
with the era's taste for vernacular and "pop" culture—a taste also
reflected in the themes and techniques of graphic art. Like their
colleagues painting soup cans, road signs, and comic-book
characters, photographers were attracted by the omnipresent emblems
of contemporary culture— automobiles, billboards, graffiti, and
storefronts. They recorded these artifacts, as well as people and
situations, in a casual style that seemed to paraphrase the lack of
artifice and the neutral emotional tone of most snapshots. In 1966,
the photographer-educator Nathan Lyons coined the phrase "social
landscape" to characterize this type of documentation, which he and
others felt avoided the sentimentality they perceived in the older
documentary style. The "social landscape" approach appealed
especially to photographers whose view of reality tended to be
disjunctive and who no longer canonized the pre-visualized,
beautifully printed, large-format camera image.
The desire to make pictures that
affirmed the camera's potential for neutral observation evolved from
interest in the snapshot and emerged as a significant impulse,
nurtured from the late 1960s through 1991 by John Szarkowski,
director of the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern
Art in New York. In theory, the avoidance of overt psychological or
ideological interpretation in a photograph allows the viewer to read
the work without the interference of the photographer's political or
social biases. This mode of working is exemplified by Garry
Winogrand, whose images, according to Szarkowski, are statements
about "the uniquely prejudicial (intrinsic) qualities of
photographic description" and not about their ostensible subjects.
Winogrand's photo-graph of a young woman is arresting
in the way it integrates and structures the reflections and
geometric elements, relating the principal figure to the manikin and
to the city background, but it is an ambiguous statement that allows
the viewer to interpret its meaning freely.
Using comparable subject
matter—people and things— Lee Friedlander makes views of city
streets that are simiarly equivocal but nevertheless
suggestive of an uneasy urban tension. Along with the uninflected
portrayals of ordinary people by Todd Papageorge and Larry Fink and
the street views by Mark Cohen and Joel Meyerowitz—to cite but four
more of the numerous photographers who were initially attracted to
this style of uninflected street photography—such works permit
viewers to decide for themselves whether a particular image is
derisive or amusing, whether it is interesting as social or
political comment, as an example of the formal problems of
picture-making, or, like the vast majority of photographs, just
This vernacular mode had an
unexpected side-effect: it prepared the way for the acceptance of
humor in seriously conceived images. In the United States,
Pictorialists and modernists alike had been fairly earnest about
photography; witty or humorous images were relegated to advertising
or popular entertainment or family snapshots. Within the diversity
of photographic expression that emerged in the 1960s, humor came to
be seen as a legitimate element. Elliott Erwitt and Burk Uzzle, for
example, are both successful photojournalists who regard people,
animals, and artifacts with disarming wit. Although
this vein still has not been extensively mined in the United States,
other photographers, among them Geoffrey Winningham and Bill Owens,
gently satirize obviously comical anomalies in contemporary culture.
The selling strategies of advertising, the pomposities of high art,
and the excesses of performance art inspire William Wegman's antic
dog images. Although humorous in appearance, Sandy Skoglund's interiors full of animal and human forms that she sculpts
and poses and paints in unnatural colors are intended to show "what
it's like to live in America at this time." Still other approaches
to humor can be seen in the whimsical confusions between reality and
camera image explored by the conceptualist photographer Kenneth
LISETTE MODEL. French Riviera,
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.
(b Vienna, 10 Nov 1906; d New York,
30 March 1983).
American photographer of Austrian
birth. A school-friend of Gertrude Schoenberg, she studied music
first with her father Arnold Schoenberg, before continuing her
studies in Paris. She was a self-taught photographer and tried to
find ways of working in photography, training as a technician in a
photographic laboratory. In 1938 she settled in New York. Two years
later the photographer Ralph Steiner (1899–1986) published her
series of photographs, Promenade des Anglais, which she had taken in
Nice in 1937. The series was characteristic of her work in revealing
her obvious love of people, seen for example in Promenade des
Anglais (1937), which depicts a rotund woman in a large sunhat,
sitting precariously on a bench. The photographers Alexey Brodovitch
(1898–1971) and Beaumont Newhall (b 1908) were impressed by her
ROBERT FRANK. Trolley, N.
Orleans, c. 1955.
Gelatin silver print.
Robert Frank (born November 9,
1924), born in Zürich, Switzerland, is an important figure in
American photography and film. His most notable work, the 1958
photographic book titled simply The Americans, was heavily
influential in the post-war period, and earned Frank comparisons to
a modern-day de Tocqueville for his fresh and skeptical outsider's
view of American society. Frank later expanded into film and video
and experimented with compositing and manipulating photographs.
Frank was born to a wealthy Jewish
family in Switzerland. Frank's mother, Rosa, was Swiss, but his
father, Hermann, had become stateless after World War I and had to
apply for the Swiss citizenship of Frank and his older brother,
Manfred. Though Frank and his family remained safe in Switzerland
during World War II, the threat of Nazism nonetheless affected his
understanding of oppression. He turned to photography in part as a
means to escape the confines of his business-oriented family and
home, and trained under a few photographers and graphic designers
before he created his first hand-made book of photographs, 40 Fotos,
in 1946. Frank emigrated to the United States in 1947, and secured a
job in New York City as a fashion photographer for Harper's Bazaar.
He soon left to travel in South America and Europe. He created
another hand-made book of photographs that he shot in Peru, and
returned to the U.S. in 1950. That year was momentous for Frank, who
after meeting Edward Steichen participated in the group show 51
American Photographers at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); he also
married fellow artist, Mary Lockspeiser, with whom he had two
children, Andrea and Pablo.
Though he was initially optimistic about the United States, Frank's
perspective quickly changed as he confronted the fast pace of
American life and what he saw as an overemphasis on money. He now
saw America as an often bleak and lonely place, a perspective that
became evident in his later photography. Frank's own dissatisfaction
with the control editors exercised over his work also undoubtedly
colored his experience. He continued to travel, moving his family
briefly to Paris. In 1953, he returned to New York and continued to
work as a freelance photojournalist for magazines including
McCall's, Vogue, and Fortune.
With the aid of his major artistic
influence, the photographer Walker Evans, Frank secured a grant from
the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in 1955 to travel
across the United States and photograph its society at all strata.
He took his family along with him for part of his series of road
trips over the next two years, during which time he took 28,000
shots. Only 83 of those were finally selected by him for publication
in The Americans. Frank's journey was not without incident. While
driving through Arkansas, Frank was arbitrarily thrown in jail after
being stopped by the police; elsewhere in the South, he was told by
a sheriff that he had "an hour to leave town."
Shortly after returning to New York in 1957, Frank met Beat writer
Jack Kerouac on the sidewalk outside a party and showed him the
photographs from his travels. Kerouac immediately told Frank "Sure I
can write something about these pictures," and he contributed the
introduction to the U.S. edition of The Americans. Frank also became
lifelong friends with Allen Ginsberg, and was one of the main visual
artists to document the Beat subculture, which felt an affinity with
Frank's interest in documenting the tensions between the optimism of
the 1950s and the realities of class and racial differences. The
irony that Frank found in the gloss of American culture and wealth
over this tension gave Frank's photographs a clear contrast to those
of most contemporary American photojournalists, as did his use of
unusual focus, low lighting and cropping that deviated from accepted
This divergence from contemporary photographic standards gave Frank
difficulty at first in securing an American publisher. Les
Américains was first published in 1958 by Robert Delpire in Paris,
and finally in 1959 in the United States by Grove Press, where it
initially received substantial criticism. Popular Photography, for
one, derided his images as "meaningless blur, grain, muddy
exposures, drunken horizons and general sloppiness." Though sales
were also poor at first, Kerouac's introduction helped it reach a
larger audience because of the popularity of the Beat phenomenon.
Over time and through its inspiration of later artists, The
Americans became a seminal work in American photography and art
history, and is considered the work with which Frank is most clearly
identified. In 1961, Frank received his first individual show,
entitled Robert Frank: Photographer, at the Art Institute of
Chicago. He also showed at MoMA in New York in 1962.
To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the first publication of The
Americans, a new edition will be released worldwide on May 15, 2008.
Robert Frank discussed with his publisher, Gerhard Steidl, the idea
of producing a new edition using modern scanning and the finest
tritone printing. The starting point was to bring original prints
from New York to Göttingen, Germany, where Steidl is based. In July
2007, Frank visited Göttingen. A new format for the book was worked
out and new typography selected. A new cover was designed and Frank
chose the book cloth, foil embossing and the endpaper. Most
significantly, as he has done for every edition of The Americans,
Frank changed the cropping of many of the photographs, usually
including more information. Two images were changed completely from
the original 1958 and 1959 editions. A celebratory exhibit of The
Americans will be displayed in 2009 at the National Gallery of Art
in Washington D.C., the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and at
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The new edition is
published by Steidl and National Gallery of Art, Washington, and
will be available in North America through D.A.P./Distributed Art
By that time, however, Frank had
moved away from photography to concentrate on making films. Among
them was the 1959 Pull My Daisy, which was written and narrated by
Kerouac and starred Ginsberg and others from the Beat circle. The
Beat philosophy emphasized spontaneity, and the film conveyed the
quality of having been thrown together or even improvised. Pull My
Daisy was accordingly praised for years as an improvisational
masterpiece, until Frank's co-director, Alfred Leslie, revealed in a
November 28, 1968 article in the Village Voice that the film was
actually carefully planned, rehearsed, and directed by him and
Frank, who shot the film with professional lighting.
In 1960, Frank was staying in Fluxus artist George Segal's basement
while filming Sin of Jesus with a grant from Walter K. Gutman. Isaac
Babel's story was transformed to center on a woman working on a
chicken farm in New Jersey. It was originally supposed to be filmed
in six weeks in and around New Brunswick, but Frank ended up
shooting for six months.
His 1972 documentary of the Rolling Stones, Cocksucker Blues, is
arguably his best known film. The film shows the Stones while on
their '72 tour, engaging in heavy drug use and group sex. Perhaps
more disturbing to the Stones when they saw the finished product,
however, was the degree to which Frank faithfully captured the
loneliness and despair of life on the road. Mick Jagger reportedly
told Frank, "It's a fucking good film, Robert, but if it shows in
America we'll never be allowed in the country again." The Stones
sued to prevent the film's release, and it was disputed whether
Frank as the artist or the Stones as those who hired the artist
actually owned the copyright. A court order resolved this with
Solomonic wisdom by restricting the film to being shown no more than
five times per year and only in the presence of Frank. Franks'
photography also appeared on the cover of the Rolling Stones' album
Exile on Main St..
Other films by Robert Frank include "Keep Busy" and "Candy Mountain"
which he co-directed with Rudy Wurlitzer.
Though Frank continued to be
interested in film and video, he returned to still images in the
1970s, publishing his second photographic book, The Lines of My
Hand, in 1972. This work has been described as a "visual
autobiography", and consists largely of personal photographs.
However, he largely gave up "straight" photography to instead create
narratives out of constructed images and collages, incorporating
words and multiple frames of images that were directly scratched and
distorted on the negatives. None of this later work has achieved an
impact or notoriety comparable to that which The Americans achieved.
As some critics have pointed out, this is perhaps because Frank
began playing with constructed images more than a decade after
Robert Rauschenberg introduced his silkscreen composites—in contrast
to The Americans, Frank's later images simply were not beyond the
pale of accepted technique and practice by that time.
Frank and Mary separated in 1969. He remarried to sculptor June
Leaf, and in 1971, moved to the community of Mabou, Nova Scotia in
Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia in Canada. In 1974, tragedy struck
when his daughter, Andrea, was killed in a plane crash in Tikal,
Guatemala. Also around this time, his son, Pablo, was first
hospitalized and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Much of Frank's
subsequent work has dealt with the impact of the loss of both his
daughter and subsequently his son, who died in an Allentown, PA
hospital in 1994. In 1995, he founded the Andrea Frank Foundation,
which provides grants to artists.
Since his move to Nova Scotia, Canada, Frank has divided his time
between his home there in a former fisherman's shack on the coast,
and his Bleecker Street loft in New York. He has acquired a
reputation for being a recluse (particularly since the death of
Andrea), declining most interviews and public appearances. He has
continued to accept eclectic assignments, however, such as
photographing the 1984 Democratic National Convention, and directing
music videos for artists such as New Order ("Run"), and Patti Smith
("Summer Cannibals"). Frank continues to produce both films and
still images, and has helped organize several retrospectives of his
art. In 1994, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC
presented the most comprehensive retrospective of Frank's work to
date, entitled Moving Out. Frank was awarded the prestigious
Hasselblad Award for photography in 1996. His 1997 award exhibition
at the Hasselblad Center in Goteborg, Sweden was entitled Flamingo,
as was the accompanying published catalog.
He is currently represented by the Pace/MacGill Gallery in New York.
ROBERT FRANK. Political Rally,
Chicago, c. 1955.
Gelatin silver print.
WILLIAM KLEIN. Garment Center,
Gelatin silver print.
William Klein (born April 19, 1928)
is a photographer and filmmaker. Though born in New York City and
educated at City College of New York, Klein is predominantly active
in France. He has directed a number of feature films, including the
1966 film Who Are You, Polly Magoo? and the anti-American satire Mr.
Freedom. Klein's photography won the Prix Nadar in 1956.
DIANE ARBUS. Mother Holding
Her Child, N.J., 1967.
Gelatin silver print.
Diane Arbus (March 14, 1923 – July
26, 1971) was an American photographer, noted for her portraits of
people on the fringes of society, such as transvestites, dwarfs,
giants, prostitutes, and ordinary citizens in unconventional poses
Diane Arbus (née Nemerov) was born in New York City into a wealthy
Jewish family, the younger sister of Howard Nemerov, who served as
United States Poet Laureate on two separate occasions. She attended
the Fieldston School for Ethical Culture.
She fell in love with future actor Allan Arbus at age 14, and
married him in 1941, soon after turning 18, despite her parents'
objections. When her husband began training as a photographer for
the US Army, he shared his lessons with Diane. As a husband-wife
team, the Arbuses became successful in the fashion world. As Diane
began to take her own photographs, she took formal lessons with
Lisette Model at The New School in New York. Edward Steichen's noted
photo exhibit, The Family of Man, included a photograph credited to
the couple. Together the Arbuses had two daughters, photographer Amy
Arbus and writer and art director Doon Arbus. Allan and Diane Arbus
had separated by 1959.
After separating from her husband, Arbus studied with Alexey
Brodovitch and Richard Avedon. Beginning in 1960, Arbus worked
extensively as a photojournalist, her photos appearing in Esquire,
The New York Times Magazine, Harper's Bazaar and Sunday Times
magazines, among others. Her first public work was an assignment by
Esquire editor and art director Robert Benton. Published under the
title, "The Vertical Journey: Six Movements of a Moment Within the
Heart of the City", consisting of six portraits of an assortment of
New Yorkers. Arbus would go on to collaborate with Hayes and Benton
(and Benton's successors) for 31 photographs in 18 articles.
Arbus' early work was created using 35mm cameras, but by the 1960s
Arbus adopted the Rolleiflex medium format twin-lens reflex. This
format provided a square aspect ratio, higher image resolution, and
a waist-level viewfinder that allowed Arbus to connect with her
subjects in ways that a standard eye-level viewfinder did not. Arbus
also experimented with the use of flashes in daylight, allowing her
to highlight and separate her subjects from the background.
In 1963, Arbus received a Guggenheim Fellowship grant. Arbus
received a second Guggenheim grant in 1966. The Museum of Modern
Art, in 1967, staged Arbus' first museum show as the New Documents
show which included the work of Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander.
She also taught photography at The Parsons School for Design in NYC
and Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.
In July 1971, Arbus committed suicide in Greenwich Village at the
age of 48 by ingesting a large quantity of barbiturates and then
slashing her wrists.
GARRY WINOGRAND. Untitted, c.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco, and
the Garry Winogrand Estate.
Garry WinograndGarry Winogrand (14
January 1928, New York City – 19 March 1984, Tijuana, Mexico) was a
street photographer known for his portrayal of America in the mid
Winogrand studied painting at City College of New York and painting
and photography at Columbia University in New York City in 1948. He
also attended a photojournalism class taught by Alexey Brodovich at
The New School for Social Research in New York City in 1951.
Winogrand made his first notable appearance in 1963 at an exhibition
at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. This show
included Minor White, George Krause, Jerome Liebling and Ken Heyman.
In 1966 Winogrand exhibited at the George Eastman House in
Rochester, New York with Lee Friedlander, Duane Michals, Bruce
Davidson, and Danny Lyon in an exhibition entitled Toward a Social
Landscape. In 1967 he participated in the New Documents show at MoMA
with Diane Arbus and Lee Friedlander. During his career, he received
three Guggenheim Fellowship Awards (1964, 1969, and 1979) and a
National Endowment of the Arts Award in 1979. Winogrand also taught
photography courses at the University of Texas at Austin and at the
Art Institute of Chicago.
Winogrand was influenced by Walker Evans and Robert Frank and their
respective publications American Photographs and The Americans.
Henri Cartier-Bresson was another influence although stylistically
Winogrand was known for his portrayal of American life in the early
1960s, Many of his photographs depict the social issues of his time
day and in the role of media in shaping attitudes. He roamed the
streets of New York with his 35mm Leica camera rapidly taking
photographs using a prefocused wide angle lens. His pictures
frequently appeared as if they were driven by the energy of the
events he was witnessing. While the style has been much imitated,
Winogrand's eye, his visual style, and his wit, are unique.
Winogrand's photographs of the Bronx Zoo and the Coney Island
Aquarium made up his first book The Animals. (1969) a collection of
pictures that observe the connections between humans and animals.
His book Public Relations (1977) shows press conferences with
deer-in-the-headlight writers and politicians, protesters beaten by
cops, and wild museum parties frequented by the self-satisfied
cultural glitterati. These photographs capture the evolution of a
uniquely 20th and 21st century phenomenon, the event created to be
documented, in Winogrand's style -- a unique conversation between
the photographer and his subject. The tilted camera, the frame
filled with twitchy, restless motion and agitated faces, come
together to represent an authentic and original response to the
evolving culture of public relations. In Stock Photographs 1980,
Winogrand published his views of the Fort Worth Fat Stock Show and
Winogrand died of gall bladder cancer, in 1984 at age 56.
LEE FRIEDLANDER. Cincinnati,
Gelatin silver print.
Lee Friedlander (born July 14,
1934) is an American photographer and artist.
Friedlander studied photography at the Art Center College of Design
located in Pasadena, California. In 1956, he moved to New York City
where he photographed jazz musicians for record covers. His early
work was influenced by Eugène Atget, Robert Frank, and Walker Evans.
In 1960, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation awarded Friedlander a
grant to focus on his art and made subsequent grants in 1962 and
1977. Some of his most famous photographs appeared in the September
1985 Playboy, black and white nude photographs of Madonna from the
Working primarily with Leica 35mm cameras and black and white film,
Friedlander's style focused on the "social landscape". His art used
detached images of urban life, store-front reflections, structures
framed by fences, and posters and signs all combining to capture the
look of modern life.
In 1963, the International Museum of Photography at George Eastman
House mounted Friedlander's first solo museum show. Friedlander was
then a key figure in the 1967 "New Documents" exhibition, at the
Museum of Modern Art in New York City along with Garry Winogrand and
Diane Arbus. In 1990, the MacArthur Foundation awarded Friedlander a
Friedlander now works primarily with medium format cameras (e.g.
Hasselblad Superwide). While suffering from arthritis and
housebound, he focused on photographing his surroundings. His book,
Stems, reflects his life during the time of his knee replacement
surgery. He has said that his "limbs" reminded him of plant stems.
These images display textures which were not a feature of his
earlier work. In this sense, the images are similar to those of
Josef Sudek who also photographed the confines of his home and
In 2005, the Museum of Modern Art displayed a major retrospective of
Friedlander works. In the same year he received a 2005 Hasselblad
International Award. His work was displayed again by the San
Francisco Museum of Modern Art as a retrospective in 2008.
Concurrent to this retrospective, a more contemporary body of his
work, America By Car, was displayed at the Fraenkel Gallery not far
from the museum.
ELLIOTT ERWITT. Alabama,
Gelatin silver print.
WILLIAM WEGMAN. Man Ray with
Gelatin silver print with ink applied. Museum Ludwig, Cologne,
Courtesy Holly Solomon Gallery. New York.
William Wegman (b. 1943 in Holyoke,
Massachusetts) is an artist best known as a photographer who has
created a series of compositions involving dogs, primarily his own
Weimaraners in various costumes and poses.
Wegman reportedly originally intended to pursue a career as a
painter. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from
Massachusetts College of Art in 1965 and a Master of Fine Arts
degree in painting from the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign in 1967.
While teaching at California State University, Long Beach, he
acquired the first and most famous of the dogs he photographed, a
Weimaraner he named Man Ray (after the artist and photographer). Man
Ray later became so popular that the Village Voice named him "Man of
the Year" in 1982. He named a subsequent dog Fay Ray (a play on the
name of actress Fay Wray).
On January 29, 1992, Wegman appeared on The Tonight Show Starring
Johnny Carson and showed a video clip of "Dog Duet," his 1975 short
of Man Ray & another dog slowly and mysteriously peering around.
Wegman explained that he had created the video by moving a tennis
ball around, off-camera, thus capturing the dogs' attention.
Wegman's photos are well-respected in the art world, are are held in
permanent collections of the Hammer Museum, the Los Angeles County
Museum of Art, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts and the
Smithsonian American Art Museum. His photos and videos have also
been a popular success, and have appeared in books, advertisements,
films, as well as on television programs like Sesame Street and
Saturday Night Live. In 2006, Wegman's work was featured in a
retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art
Museum, the Norton Museum of Art, and the Addison Gallery. The
Brooklyn Museum explored 40 years of Wegman’s work in all media in
the 2006 retrospective William Wegman: Funney/Strange.
Evolving out of the concept of
"social landscape," images that present the artifacts and landscapes
of contemporary industrial culture without emotional shading were
given the name "new topographies." Robert Adams, Lewis Baltz, Frank
Gohlke, Roger Mcrtin, and Stephen Shore, among others, photographed
tract housing, factory buildings, western land developments, and
urban streets, recording this despoiled landscape seemingly without
personal comment. Adams, for example, may have shared with Ansel
Adams (no relation) a concern for the beauty of the land from the
Missouri River westward, but for his photographs he selected vantage
points and effects of light that show its grandeur diminished by
roads, lumber camps, and housing developments.
South Wall, Mazda Motors, one of a 1974 series on industrial parks by Baltz, is meant to
provide "sterile information with no emotional content," according
to the photographer, who said that his vocation was to "describe
with a camera how something looks as a photograph." Nevertheless,
all photographers make decisions concerning the selection of a
motif, the management of light, and the organization of form. The
fact that "topographical" images usually are highly structured
suggests that their uneventfulness and lack of emotional expression
are in themselves emblems of a style and are no more factual as
records of what actually exists than images that reflect more
socially oriented points of view. One consequence of the supposedly
neutral approach is that such images may serve multiple
purposes—aesthetic, informational, propagandists.
The deadpan quality of
"topographical" views—whether Baltz's factories or Gohlke's grain
elevators—often makes them indistinguishable from images
commissioned to illustrate corporate reports, but photographers with
strong feelings about the desecration of the landscape have sought
to make more pointed statements. One solution was "re-photography"
projects: groups of photographers working in California and Colorado
during the 1980s selected the same vantage points recorded by
Timothy O'Sullivan and William Henry Jackson during the exploratory
expeditions of the 19th century; the purpose was to produce .
comparison of the terrain's appearance then and now. (Similarly, a
French group, taking inspiration from the 19th-century project by
the Missions heliographiques photographed the pernicious effects of
industrialization on their country's landscape.) Individual
photographers also explored a variety of formats in their work
dealing with industrial pollution. Robert Glenn Ketcham, Richard
Misrach, Barbara Norfleet, and others used color film to contrast
the subtle beauties of nature with the despoliation caused by
ill-conceived engineering projects or with garish
consumer refuse. At a further remove from the
traditional documentary mode, John Pfahl added some object—a ribbon,
a stake—to make the point that the human presence always alters the
Other landscape photographers
argued for a less damning view of the relationship between land and
people. Work by Linda Connor and Marilyn Bridges reveals ancient
markings on rocks and earth made by people who seem to have lived in
greater harmony with nature. With her portrayals of the domesticated
New England landscape of field, garden, and woods, Gretchen Garner
suggests that opposing forces in nature—storm and calm, fire and
water—not only are necessary to the cycles of life but also create
beauty. Lois Conner's photographs of nature and culture in Asia treat the built and the natural worlds as forming a unity
rather than as antagonistic to each other.
Photographers have also revitalized
themes that were prominent in 19th-century documentation,
emphasizing, as in images of ancient Egyptian tomb sculpture by Lynn
Davis, the aesthetic qualities of structures and
monuments that have essentially become an integral part of the
landscape. Respect for the artful historical documentation of
artifacts—revealing the object in its most attractive light—can be
seen in Linda Butler's photographs of Shaker buildings and interiors
and of Japanese hand-crafts and in Richard Fare's images of
classical statuary. Like their antecedents, these
works explore stillness and movement, languor and vigor, and the
play of light on forms.
.Following World War II,
photographers with a broadly humanist oudook—among them, Roy
DeCarava, Louis Faurer, Jerome Liebling, Leon Levenstein, Helen
Levitt, Walter Roseublum, and Max Yavno—continued to
work on a variety of self-motivated projects whose central subject
was people, despite the fact that museums and galleries tended for a
time to give greater support to other kinds of images. Levitt's
lyrical views of youngsters, begun in the 1940s in
black and white and continued intermittently up through the 1970s in
color, illuminate the toughness, grace, and humor of those growing
up) New York's inner-city neighborhoods. De Carava's Pepsi, New York may incorporate some components of the vernacular
style—consumer products, billboard ads—but the highly structured
handling of light and architectonic elements focuses attention on
the physical and psychological exhaustion of die central figure,
leaning no doubt as to where the photographer's sympathies lie.
Liebling's grasp of abstract form
is apparent in the repeated arclike shapes formed by head,
shoulders, and plate in Blind Home, St. Paul, Minnesota, but these elements also generate a sense of the circumscribed
world of the sightless. A somewhat cooler romantic sensibility can
be seen in the work of George A. Tice, whose careful control of
tonality and pictorial structure imbues with a sense of wistfulness
the customs and physical surroundings of the Amish in Pennsylvania
and of ordinary folk in the small towns of New Jersey.
In the 1960s, despite the inroads
of film and television documentaries, the still image again came to
be seen as a significant element in socially useful programs. Many
factors were responsible for the revival of interest in the
traditional forms of social documentation. One was the emergence of
funding sources both in and out of government. Support from the
national and state arts endowments; from private granting bodies
such as the venerable John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation
(which from 1946 on had funded a range of photographic projects);
and from banks, economic assistance programs, and labor unions made
possible individual and group camera documentation of decaying and
regenerated neighborhoods, rural communities, nuclear and other
power installations, and the working conditions of industrial and
farm laborers. A multiplicity of projects made use of images in
conjunction with words in slide talks, exhibitions, and
Another factor in the upsurge of
social documentation was the involvement of photojournalists in
increasingly volatile sociopolitical situations in America, Africa,
; Europe. For instance, Bob Adelman, Bruce Davidson, Leonard Freed,
Danny Lyon, and Mary Ellen Mark were among the photojournalists who
covered the civil rights struggles of the 1960s for the press ,
continued after-ward to confront social issues on their own,
developing their themes with greater depth than was possible when
working on deadline. When Davidson undertook subsequent photographic
projects in East Harlem, on the New York subways, and
in Central Park, he moved from the somewhat equivocal tone of his
very early work toward a more traditional humanism, even though he
claims that the evidence of fear, affection, and hopeless-ness he
captured in these images helped him "to discover who the person was
who took the picture."
In the wake of his experiences with
the civil rights movement in the South, Lyon, whose initial work had
included an evocative picture essay on Hell's Angels bikers,
depicted life in Texas state prisons. Conversations with the Dead,
the book that resulted from this project, vividly communicates the
photographer's sense of the "unmitigated sorrow" permeating this
form of social estrangement. The desire to illuminate
the psychological consequences of inhumane circumstances has
inspired many photographers to depict not only, or even primarily,
the squalor of certain environments but also the moments that sum up
the effect of life's experiences on the individual. In one such
example, by Mary Ellen Mark, the photographer was entranced with the
life force of her subject ; in another, Eugene
Richards, who has photographed in slums throughout the nation,
evokes the dignity and warmth of familial relationships among those
too often regarded as predators or victims.
The documentation of life in
African-American communities, the emergence of a substantial number
of black (and especially black women) professional photographers,
and the flowering among African Americans of photography as personal
expression also owes something to the social climate of the late
1960s. Roland L. Freeman, for example, began to use a camera while
working for the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.G., and went
on to produce a touching visual document of the Baltimore
neighborhood of his youth. In 1973, the first Black
Photographers Annual appeared; in this and subsequent volumes, black
photographers showed them-selves to be fully aware of the range of
contemporary trends even as they focused their lenses on the way
African -American life is lived. In addition to Gordon Parks, those who entered the ranks of black photojournalists at
this time included Anthony Barboza, Chester Higgins, Jeanne
Moutoussamy-Ashe, Marilyn Nance, Beuford Smith, and
Dixie Vereen, all of whom have evolved distinctive styles. More
recently, several black women photographers have turned to
directorial modes for dealing with issues related to family life and
LEWIS BALTZ. South Wall, Mazda
Gelatin silver print. Castclli Graphics, New York.
Lois CONNER. Halong Bay, 1993.
Platinum print. Laurence Miller Gallery, New York.
LYNN DAVIS. Statue V, 1989.
Selenium-toned gelatin silver. Houk Friedman G.illerv, New York.
HELEN LEVITT. New York, c.
Gelatin silver print. Collection Judith Mamiye, Oakhurst, N.J.
Helen Levitt (born 31 August 1913)
is an American documentary photographer.
Levitt grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Dropping out of school, she
taught herself photography while working for a commercial
photographer. While teaching some classes in art to children in
1937, Levitt became intrigued with the transitory chalk drawings
that were part of the New York children's street culture of the
time. She purchased a Leica camera and began to photograph these
works as well as the children who made them. The resulting
photographs appeared, to great acclaim, in 1987 as In The Street:
chalk drawings and messages, New York City 1938–1948. Named as one
of the "100 best photo-books", first-editions are now highly
She studied with Walker Evans 1938 and 1939. In 1943 Edward Steichen
at the Museum of Modern Art curated her first solo exhibition, after
which she began to find press work as a documentary photographer. In
the late 1940s she made two documentary films with Janice Loeb and
James Agee: In the Street (1948) and The Quiet One (1948). Levitt,
along with Loeb and Sidney Meyers, received an Academy Award
nomination for the screenplay of The Quiet One. Levitt was later
credited as a cinematographer on The Savage Eye (1960), which was
produced by Ben Maddow, Meyers, Joseph Strick; she was also credited
as an assistant director for Strick and Maddow's film version of The
Levitt worked in film for about ten years. In 1959 and 1960, Levitt
received two Guggenheim Foundation grants to take color photographs
on the streets of New York, and she returned to still photography.
Her first major book was A Way of Seeing (1965). Much of her work in
color from the 1960s was stolen in a burglary. The remaining photos,
and others taken in the following years, can be seen in the 2005
book Slide Show: The Color Photographs of Helen Levitt. In 1976 she
was a Photography Fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts.
She has remained active as a photographer for nearly 70 years and
still lives in New York City. New York's "visual poet laureate" is
notoriously private and publicity shy.
ROY DECARAVA. Pepsi, New York,
Gelatin silver print.
JEROME LIEBLING. Blind Home,
St. Paul, Minnesota, 1963.
Gelatin silver print.
GEORGE A. TICE. Joe's
Barbershop, Paterson, N.J., 1970.
Gelatin silver print.
BRUCE DAVIDSON. Untitted, East
100th Street, 1966.
Gelatin silver print.
DANNY LYON. The Line, 1968.
Gelatin silver print.
MARY ELLEN MARK. "Tiny" in Her
Halloween Costume, Seattle, 1983.
Gelatin silver print. Marv Ellen Mark Library, New York.
EUGENE RICHARDS. Grandmother,
Brooklyn, from Americans We. 1993.
Gelatin silver print.
ROLAND L. FREEMAN. Amber's
Helper, June, 1969.
Gelatin silver print.
GORDON PARKS. Housewife,
Washington, D.C. 1942.
Gelatin silver print. G. Ray Hawkins Gallery, Santa Monica, Cal.
Gordon Roger Alexander Buchannan
Parks (November 30, 1912 – March 7, 2006) was a groundbreaking
American photographer, musician, poet, novelist, journalist,
activist and film director. He is best remembered for his photo
essays for Life magazine and as the director of the 1971 film Shaft.
The youngest of 15 children, Parks was born into a poor, black
family in segregated Fort Scott, Kansas. His mother, a staunch
Methodist, was the main influence on his life, refusing to allow her
son to justify failure with the excuse that he had been born black,
and instilling in him self-confidence, ambition and a capacity for
When Parks was 15 years old, as said in his book "A Hungry Heart",
his mother died. Soon after her death his father sent him to live
with his married sister in St. Paul, Minnesota. He and his
brother-in-law did not get along; he only lived there for a few
weeks until he got in a fight with his brother-in-law, getting him
evicted. He was forced to sleep in trolley cars, loiter in pool
halls, and play piano in a brothel. Parks also worked as a factotum
in a whites-only club and as a waiter on a luxury train.
Parks later commented: “I had a mother who would not allow me to
complain about not accomplishing something because I was black. Her
attitude was, ‘If a white boy can do it, then you can do it, too—and
do it better, or don’t come home.’”
In 1938, Parks was struck by photographs of migrant workers in a
magazine and bought his first camera, a Voigtländer Brilliant, for
$12.50 at a pawnshop.The photo clerks who developed Parks' first
roll of film, applauded his work and prompted him to get a fashion
assignment at Frank Murphy's women's clothing store in St. Paul.
Parks double exposed every frame except one, but that shot caught
the eye of Marva Louis, heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis'
elegant wife. She encouraged Parks to move to Chicago, where he
began a portrait business for society women.
Over the next few years, Parks moved from job to job, developing a
freelance portrait and fashion photographer sideline. He began to
chronicle the city's South Side black ghetto and in 1941 an
exhibition of those photographs won Parks a photography fellowship
with the Farm Security Administration. Working as a trainee under
Roy Stryker, Parks created one of his best known photographs,
American Gothic, Washington, D.C. (named after Grant Wood painting
American Gothic). The photo shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who
worked on the cleaning crew for the FSA building, standing stiffly
in front of an American flag, a broom in one hand and a mop in the
background. Parks had been inspired to create the picture after
encountering repeated racism in restaurants and shops, following his
arrival in Washington, D.C.. Upon viewing it, Stryker said that it
was an indictment of America, and could get all of his photographers
fired; he urged Parks to keep working with Watson, however, leading
to a series of photos of her daily life. Parks, himself, said later
that the first image was unsubtle and overdone; nonetheless, other
commentators have argued that it drew strength from its polemical
nature and its duality of victim and survivor, and so has affected
far more people than his subsequent pictures of Watson.
After the FSA disbanded, Parks remained in Washington as a
correspondent with the Office of War Information, but became
disgusted with the prejudice he encountered and resigned in 1944.
Moving to Harlem, Parks became a freelance fashion photographer for
Vogue. He later followed Stryker to the Standard Oil (New Jersey)
Photography Project, which assigned photographers to take pictures
of small towns and industrial centers. Parks's most striking of the
period included Dinner Time at Mr. Hercules Brown's Home,
Somerville, Maine (1944); Grease Plant Worker, Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania (1946); Car Loaded with Furniture on Highway (1945);
and Ferry Commuters, Staten Island, N.Y. (1946).
Parks renewed his search for photography jobs in the fashion world.
Despite racist attitudes of the day, Vogue editor Alexander Liberman
hired him to shoot a collection of evening gowns. Parks photographed
fashion for Vogue for the next few years. During this time, he
published his first two books, Flash Photography (1947) and Camera
Portraits: Techniques and Principles of Documentary Portraiture
A 1948 photo essay on a young Harlem gang leader won Parks a staff
job as a photographer and writer with Life magazine. For 20 years,
Parks produced photos on subjects including fashion, sports,
Broadway, poverty, racial segregation, and portraits of Malcolm X,
Stokely Carmichael, Muhammad Ali, and Barbra Streisand. His 1961
photo essay on a poor Brazilian boy named Flavio da Silva, who was
dying from bronchial pneumonia and malnutrition, brought donations
that saved the boy's life and paid for a new home for his family.
In the 1950s, Parks worked as a consultant on various Hollywood
productions and later directed a series of documentaries
commissioned by National Educational Television on black ghetto
Beginning in the 1960s, Parks branched out into literature, writing
The Learning Tree (1963), several books of poetry illustrated with
his own photographs, and three volumes of memoirs.
In 1969, Parks became Hollywood's first major black director with
his film adaptation of his autobiographical novel, The Learning
Tree. Parks also composed the film's musical score and wrote the
Shaft, Parks' 1971 detective film starring Richard Roundtree, became
a major hit that spawned a series of blaxploitation films. Parks'
feel for settings was confirmed by Shaft, with its portrayal of the
super-cool leather-clad black private detective hired to find the
kidnapped daughter of a Harlem racketeer.
Parks also directed the 1972 sequel, Shaft's Big Score in which the
protagonist finds himself caught in the middle of rival gangs of
racketeers. Parks's other directorial credits included The Super
Cops (1974), and Leadbelly (1976), a biopic of the blues musician
In the 1980s, he made several films for television and composed the
music and libretto for Martin, a ballet tribute to Martin Luther
King, Jr., which premiered in Washington, D.C. in 1989 and was
screened on national television on King's birthday in 1990.
In 1981, Parks turned to fiction with Shannon, a novel about Irish
immigrants fighting their way up the social ladder in turbulent
early 20th-century New York. Parks' writing accomplishments include
novels, poetry, autobiography, and non-fiction including
photographic instructional manuals and filmmaking books. Parks also
wrote a poem called "The Funeral".
A self-taught pianist, Parks composed Concerto for Piano and
Orchestra (1953) and Tree Symphony (1967). In 1989, he composed and
choreographed Martin, a ballet dedicated to civil rights leader
Martin Luther King, Jr. Parks also performed as a jazz pianist.
Parks was also a campaigner for civil rights; subject of film and
print profiles, notably Half Past Autumn in 2000; and had a gallery
exhibit of his photo-related, abstract oil paintings in 1981.
Parks was married and divorced three times. His wives were Sally
Alvis, Elizabeth Campbell and Genevieve Young, a book editor whom he
married in 1973 and divorced in 1979. For many years, Parks was
romantically involved with the railroad heiress and designer Gloria
Parks lived at the fashionable New York address of 860 United
Nations Plaza on the east side.
Gordon Parks died of cancer at the age of 93.
MARILYN NANCE. First Annual
Community Baptism for the Afrikan Family, New York City, 1986.
Gelatin silver print. Marie Brown Associates, New York.
In common with African Americans,
who sometimes have felt that white photographers were unable to
under-stand black culture and therefore depict it with sympathy,
Native and Latin Americans and other minorities have regarded their
portrayal by others as often insensitive or distorted. While
postmodern strategies such as the addition of texts to images appeal
to many photographers from these groups, straight documentation
offers Greg Staats (of the Mohawk Nation) and Lee Marmon and Maggie
Steber (of Laguna and Cherokee ancestry, respectively) the means to
explore what they regard as their own personal and social
identities. Their images provide a sympathetic view of ceremonies,
rituals, and modes of living with which few outsiders are familiar.
The photographers commissioned by
labor unions and government agencies during the 1960s and '70s
continued the tradition of social documentation, producing images
intended to make visible conditions that needed changing. In the
manner of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine, they sought to do more than
just record working and living environments; they wanted to make
viewers aware of the effects of degrading conditions on the
individual. Like all enduring social documentation, Earl Dotter's
image of a mine disaster in Scotia, West Virginia, can
stand on its own as an evocation of grief, but its forcefulness is
increased by seeing it in concert with his other images of the
aftermath of a fire and explosion in this mining community.
EARL DOTTER. Scotia Mine
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.
DONNA FERRATO. Jackie in the
Hospital, Colorado, 1984.
Gelatin silver print. Domestic Abuse Awareness Project, New York.
The gradual decline of labor and
arts agency sponsor-ship as well as the reduction in the number of
magazines commissioning picture stories has forced photographers who
remain interested in social issues to seek other means of supporting
their work. Images by Ken Light, which illuminate the struggle of
Mexican immigrants to find jobs in the United States; by Deborah
Fleming Caffery of sugarcane workers in Louisiana; and by Eugene
Richards. Howard Schatz, and Stephen Shames of the effects of
poverty throughout the country now reach the public primarily in
books and on gallery walls. Nevertheless, commissions for images
with a social message have not disappeared. Susan Meisclas, working
in Nicaragua and El Salvador in the 1970s and '80s;
Donna Ferrato, portraying domestic violence in the United States; and Maggie Steber and Alex Webb, each photographing
the disturbances in Haiti in the early to mid-1990s, all have had
their work commissioned by magazines as well as exhibited and
published in books. However, photographers with social agendas
ordinarily face not only a shrinking number of outlets for their
images but also shorter assignment periods, which makes
photographing complex social and political situations difficult. In
addition, they confront loss of control over their images, brought
about by the digitization of photographing and editing.
Photographers working on their own
socially motivated projects during the 1980s faced other challenges.
One was the observation on the part of some critics that
photographing the poor (other than by someone within the community)
was a form of exploitation; another was that street photography in
innercity areas had become more dangerous. A few individuals
continued their forays into difficult neighborhoods—among them,
Thomas Frederick Arndt—but many wishing to address the
human condition essayed other subjects. Their projects might be
socially oriented, such as Nicholas Nixon's work among the visually
impaired, or personally directed, as in Sally Mann's
ongoing depiction of the cloistered world of her three children, one
of whom is seen here emerging into girlhood in an edenic setting.
THOMAS FREDERICK ARNDT. Men
Riding Bus, Las Vegas, 1981.
Gelatin silver print. Stuart B. Baum Gallery, Chicago.
NICHOLAS NIXON. Joel Geiger—
Perkins School for the Blind, 1992.
Gelatin silver print. Zabriskic Gallery, New York.
A quite different aspect of camera
documentation, which emerged in the 1970s as a reflection of the
more tolerant attitude toward drugs and sex among young people in
the United States, continues to hold sway. One example of this new
freedom to document explicit behavior is seen in the photographs
that constitute the book Tulsa by Larry Clark (who
went on to direct a motion picture depicting similarly antisocial
behavior). The images convey the unsettling self-destructiveness of
young people who, finding no niche for themselves in bourgeois
society, have become part of the drug culture. Attaining cult
status, Tulsa appears to have persuaded other photographers to
investigate areas previously considered off-limits other than for
publication in frankly erotic or pornographic magazines. For
example, in The Ballad of Sexual Dependency and in later
works—including one project, entitled Tokyo Love, done with Japanese
photographer Nobuyoshi Araki—the photographer Nan Goldin sought to
reveal the illusions and actualities of relationships by documenting
physical and psychological pairings. Like many other photographic
documentations, these images depend for effect on a multipart
format, either in publication or exhibition, because the images arc
usually less compelling individually than when viewed within a
The relaxation of restrictive
notions as to what land of sexual imagery might constitute serious
photographic expression rather than pornography coincided with the
emergence in the 1970s of significant feminist and gay rights
movements, which sought to raise consciousness about gender roles in
.society and specifically about the depiction of women and
homosexuals. Many of the photographers addressing these issues found
straight photography too confining, but a number
did employ this mode to picture their own gender more perceptively.
Anne Noggle depicted herself after cosmetic surgery and as she aged,
Judy Dater photographed her own body in the nude as well as making
portraits of other women as they themselves wished to be presented, and Robert Mapplethorpe portrayed aspects of
homo-erotic experience. Paradoxically, the explicit sexuality in
some of this imagery, along with the greater publicity given to all
types of sexual behavior in the media, has triggered a backlash,
with legal actions being initiated even against parents who portray
their own children in the nude.
SALLY MANN. Jessie at 9, 1991.
Gelatin silver print. Houk Friedman Gallery. New York.
LARRY CLARK. Untitled, 1971.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesv Larry Clark
Straight Photography in Canada and
Like their counterparts below the
border, many Canadian photographers have turned away from perceiving
camera images as basically descriptive or informative. They were
engaged by the cooler, more ironic approach initiated by Frank and
the social landscapists of the 1960s. Sharing this sensibility,
Lynne Cohen, Charles Gagnon, and Gabor Szilasi are
among those who have transformed uningratiating urban environments
into deliberately structured visual entities, at times infused with
biting humor. Street photography that integrates the common elements
of the style—automobiles, reflections, perplexing space—is
exemplified by the lucidly organized St. Joseph de Beance, Quebec) by Szilasi, a Hungarian-born photographer whose aim is
to allow people "to gain awareness of the environments they live
In a contrasting approach, Robert
Boudreau works with a large-format camera in the tradition (and at
times on the actual sites) of the grand masters of 19th-century
landscape photography, communicating a fresh appreciation of a theme
that too often results in banality. Along with increased activity
among Canadian photographers, interest in the history of the medium
has spurred James Borcoman of the National Gallery of Canada in
Ottawa to organize a national collection of photography; other
museums, notably the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal,
have acquired specialized collections and still others, archives of
For Latin American photographers,
the year 1977 signaled the end of "the utter obstinacy which
persisted in denying photography its quality as art," when a
hemi-sphere-wide conference held in Mexico City revealed the vigor
and diversity as well as the geographic and ethnic differences that
characterized camera expression through-out the region. During the
1970s and '80s, photographers in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Guatemala,
Mexico, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela were most interested in
exploring the effects of rapid social and economic change on the
traditions of their societies. Although they were initially less
involved with aesthetic experimentation for its own sake or with the
picturing of private realities, recent work suggests that these
concepts have now found fertile ground.
A range of attitudes characterizes
Latin American portrayals of urban and provincial life, which for
the most part are seen by the public in books and periodicals rather
than on gallery walls. The strength of the humanist tradition is
exemplified by the Panamanian photographer Sandra Eleta's spirited
images of ordinary working people. Infused with grace,
these images transcend the moment and convey the vibrancy of
intimate relationships. A similar intensity transforms studies of
the Yanomani and Xingu tribesmen by the Brazilian photographers
Claudia Andujar and Maureen Bisilliat from routine anthropological
documentation to inspired interpretation. By the late 1980s, as
photography in Brazil expanded to include images made for personal
expression as well as for documentation and advertising, those
involved with the medium reached out beyond the country's borders,
initiating international conferences, opening a museum for
photography in Sao Paulo, and starting publication programs.
One direction in social
documentation that found adherents throughout Latin America can be
seen in work by Roberto Fontana of Venezuela and by
the Argentine photographers Alicia D'Amico and Crete Stern, all of
whom use the small camera to capture the condition of those
alienated by sickness or poverty from contemporary society. Although
the predominant interest throughout the region is the human
condition, notable landscapes, still lifes, and architectural views
have also been made by Christian Alckmin Mascaro of Brazil and Jose
Gimeno Casals of Peru.
LYNNE COHEN. Corridor.
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Motel Fine Arts, New York,
GABOR SZILASI. St. Joseph de
Beauce, Quebec, 1973.
Gelatin silver print.
SANDRA ELETA. Lovers from
Gelatin silver print.
ROBERTO FONTANA. Scene in an
Gelatin silver print.
JOSE GIMENO CASALS. Puruchuco,
Gelatin silver print.
An opposing approach to social
documentation, which inspired the work of a small number of
photographers— most notably, Paolo Gasparini in Venezuela—was
intended to illuminate the social and economic consequences of the
intrusion of foreign capital and culture into Latin American life by
appending unequivocal texts to images. One might have expected that
this didactic view of social documentation would also be espoused by
the first generation of photographers working in Cuba after the
revolution of 1959. Instead, they were influenced by the diverse
directions being pursued in the United States. The buoyant humor in
the work of the Cuban photographers Raul Corrales, Maria Eugenia
Haya, and Mario Garcia Joya—working mainly in the 1970s and '80s—is
unusual in Latin American photography, which is generally more
earnest in dealing with reality. With its use of serial imagery,
texts, set-ups, colorization, and montages, recent work by young
Cubans demonstrates even greater familiarity with current trends in
the United States.
Mexican government support of the
arts during the 1920s and '30s and the presence in Mexico of Tina
Modotti, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, and other foreign photographers
enabled Mexican photographers to respond to the need for social
documentation and at the same time to personalize the medium. The
nation's most highly regarded native-born photographer, Manuel
Alvarez Bravo, found it possible to embrace the mythic implica-tions
of his own culture while acknowledging concepts, such as Surrealism,
imported from Europe and the United States. A similar
focus on indigenous culture— emphasizing both popular rituals and
artistic and intellectual activities—characterizes the work of his
former wife, Lola Alvarez Bravo, whose portraits of distinguished
individuals have only recently been acknowledged for their artistic
and documentary value.
Images by Pedro Meyer, who was born
in Spain but was active in Mexico after 1962 and in the United
States in the 1990s, suggest the mysterious nature of folk ritual
through harsh tonal contrasts, ambiguous gestures, and the intensity
of facial expressions, as in The Unmasking in the Square. In his recent work, Meyer has become more concerned with
personal autobiography while embracing computerized methods of
production. Other contemporary Mexican photographers who are engaged
by folk culture and ritual include Flor Garduno, Graciela Iturbide, Pablo Ortiz Monasterio, Jose Angel Rodriguez, and Jose Luis Neyra.
PEDRO MEYER. The Unmasking in
the Square, 1981.
Gelatin silver print.
GRACIELA ITURBIDE. Senor de
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Gracida Iturbide.
JOSE ANGEL RODRIGUEZ. Gampesina (Peasant), 1977.
Gelatin silver print. Collection Jain and George W. Kelly, New York.
Straight Photography in Europe
The second World War, lasting from
1939 to 1945, disrupted cultural life in Europe but did not entirely
wipe out photographic activity there. August Sander, for example,
was prevented from continuing his documentation of German life but made luminous landscapes of his native region. In
Czechoslovakia, Josef Sudek, whose photographic ideas had been
nurtured by both Pictorialism and the New Objectivity, continued to
produce lyrical tabletop still lifes as well as
neo-Romantic garden scenes.
By the mid-1960s, Europeans had
recovered sufficiently from the dislocations of the war to welcome a
range of fresh ideas about photography. The numerous directions
being explored in America soon attracted photographers who were
initially tempted to varying degrees by abstraction, conceptualism,
and symbolism. Perhaps the most telling influence was Frank's
ironical approach to documentation or "subjective realism," as the
German photographer Otto Steincrt called "humanized and
individualized photography." Even though critical acclaim and
financial support for the photograph as an art commodity was still
insignificant compared to the response in the United States, and
even though photographers could find employment only as
photojournalists, a variety of modes began to flourish as new
equipment and materials, including Polaroid and color film, became
available and less expensive.
Besides embracing photojournalistic
ways of depicting actuality, by the late 1970s some younger
Europeans looked to the subjective and conceptual approaches popular
in the United States. Others became aware of the experimental-ism
practiced by a previous generation of European photographers and
elected to work with collage, montage, and sequencing. Like their
American counterparts, they created narratives using sequenced
photographs and took part in performances that they documented and
exhibited. These productions sometimes obscured the distinctions
between what was found in nature and what was enacted, between
straight depiction and hand manipulation of print processes, between
what was recorded through the effects of light and what was added by
the application of pigments. Combining drama, photography, and
graphic art, they sought to infuse photographic expression with
greater complexity than they thought was possible in straight images.
As camerawork became more
frequently exhibited, collected, and reproduced in Europe, the
quickening of interest in contemporary photography prompted the
establishment of workshops, conferences, and foundations for the
support of the medium. Even though the high-quality photographic
print as such remains less esteemed in Europe than in the United
States, photography theory has attracted philosophers such as Roland
Barthes, giving the medium an intellectual cachet formerly lacking.
These developments were accompanied
by increased concern for the rich treasuries of historical images
housed in national and private archives and by a consequent
attentiveness to historical scholarship and preservation. Among the
leading European figures who supervised the creation of archives in
their countries have been Ute Eskildsen and Otto Steinert, who
created a distinguished collection of German photographs in the
Folkwang Museum in Essen; Fritz Kempe, director of the Staatliche
Landesbildstelle in Hamburg; Samuel Morozov in the former Soviet
Union: Jean-Claude Lemagny in France; Terence Pepper and Mark
Haworth-Booth in England; and Petr Tausk and Vladimir Birgus in
Czechoslovakia. As collections have grown, they have engendered
investigations into the history of the medium, resulting in serious
publications in Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Greece,
Hungary, Italy, and Spain. To give but one example, the Swedish
photographer Rune Hassner encouraged interest in the history of
American and European photojournalism and social documentation
through his extensive curatorial, research, and publishing
Among British photographers the
documentary tendency remained strong, prompted by long experience
with photojournalism. Curiously, the focus on informational content
in England had been reinforced by Moholy-Nagy; during a brief
sojourn in London in 1936 this catalyst of experimentalism in the
United States had promoted the camera image as a way to observe "a
fragment of present day reality from a social and economic point of
view."20 Traditional documentation was carried on and modified after
the war by the photojournalists Philip Jones Griffiths, Bert Hardy,
Thurman Hopkins, Don McCullin, Grace Robertson, and George Rodger,
among others. It was transformed in the 1960s by Roger Mayne, who
sought to give documentation a somewhat more consciously aesthetic
and equivocal aspect, and by Tony Ray-Jones, whose work displayed an
ironic but charitable humor. Glyndeboume is a witty
view of upper-class pleasures that suggests Bill Brandt's themes,
Robert Doisneau's whimsicality, and Frank's irony.
Brandt, Britain's best-known
photographer of the postwar years, was a unique phenomenon. He had
been involved with Surrealism through his association with Man Ray
in the 1920s and with the documentation of contrasts among the
classes in the 1930s, which he collected in his first publication,
The English at Home (1936). Brandt's portraits, landscapes, and nude
studies made after the war encompass a variety of different
approaches. In the search for what he termed "something beyond die
real," he found that optic distortions—the result of
using an extremely wide-angle lens and a very small
aperture—produced a curious yet poetic landscape in which human form
and nature merged. This particular approach has attracted relatively
few followers in his native country, but Brandt's emphasis on
capturing inner realities through the imaginative use of light
inspired the work of Paul Hill, whose affinity to the mysticism of
Minor White is also apparent in Arrow and Puddle, Ashbourne Car Park. Though more attuned to the sociological changes
occurring in Britain during the 1970s and '80s, Chris Killip's
documentations of working-class life also reflect his understanding
that photographs can be considered as aesthetic objects as well as
records of actuality.
By the 1980s, British photographers
had begun to explore a multiplicity of directions: installations by
Richard Hamilton and others satirizing British life, scenes of
gritty working-class squalor by Martin Parr and Nick Wapplington,
didactic conceptualizations by Victor Burgin, mixed-media
constructions based on popular icons and symbols by Gilbert and
George. During the same years, British women
photographers became greatly more prominent, and a number organized
themselves into cooperatives in an effort to make visible a feminist
view of family and society. Like their counterparts elsewhere, they
have often found that the directorial mode best serves their
JOSEF SUDEK. Window in the
Gelatin silver print. Collection Jaroslav Andel, New York.
Josef Sudek (March 17, 1896, Kolín,
Bohemia - September 15, 1976) was a Czech photographer, best known
for his haunting night-scapes of Prague.
Originally a bookbinder, During The First World War He was drafted
into Austro-Hungarian Army. In 1915 and served on the Italian Front
until he was wounded in the right arm in 1916. Although he had no
experience with photography and was one-handed due to his
amputation, he was given a camera. After the war he studied
photography for two years in Prague under Jaromir Funke. His Army
disability pension gave him leeway to make art, and he worked during
the 1920s in the romantic Pictorialist style. Always pushing at the
boundaries, a local camera club expelled him for arguing about the
need to move forwards from 'painterly' photography. Sudek then
founded the progressive Czech Photographic Society in 1924. Despite
only having one arm, he used large, bulky cameras with the aid of
Sudek's photography is sometimes said to be modernist. But this is
only true of a couple of years in the 1930s, during which he
undertook commercial photography and thus worked "in the style of
the times". Primarily, his personal photography is neo-romantic.
His early work included many series of light falling in the interior
of St. Vitus cathederal. During and after World War II Sudek created
haunting night-scapes and panoramas of Prague, photographed the
wooded landscape of Bohemia, and the window-glass that led to his
garden (the famous The Window of My Atelier series). He went on to
photograph the crowded interior of his studio (the Labyrinths
His first Western show was at George Eastman House in 1974 and he
published 16 books during his life.
Known as the "Poet of Prague", Sudek never married, and was a shy,
retiring person. He never appeared at his exhibit openings and few
people appear in his photographs. Despite the privations of the war
and Communism, he kept a renowned record collection of classical
TONY RAY-JONES. Glyndebourne,
Gelatin silver print.
PAUL HILL. Arrow and Puddle, Ashbourne Car Park, 1974.
Gelatin silver print.
The revitalization of photography
in France after the war was evident in several developments. One was
the establishment of a movement to encourage artistic photography.
In the south of France, members of the Expression libre (Free
Expression) group, founded in 1964, sought to enhance the status of
photography by urging, among other measures, that it be introduced
into univer-sity curricula. Acknowledgment of photography's visual
significance spurred the opening in 1982 of the Ecole Nationale de
Photographic in Aries, the establishment of galleries devoted to the
medium in Paris and Toulouse, and the initiation of annual and
biennial photographic festivals in Aries, Cahors, and Paris. With
the support of the government, the Maison Europeenne de la
Photographie opened in Paris in 1996, giving France its first
international center devoted to photography.
In their own productions, the
photographers initially active in this resurgence—Denis Brihat, Lucien Clergue, and Jean Dieuzade, among them—intervened in the photographic process by directing
the model, establishing the settings, or manipulating negative and
print. The straight work of Francois Hers and Bernard Plossu (now
living in the United States) follows the direction known as
"subjective realism"; their themes appear to be social in nature,
but they are concerned mainly with expressing what one of their
colleagues called "a personal vibration ... an autobiographical
sign." An approach to nature that combines lyricism and irony in a
disquieting manner can be seen in recent landscapes of former
battlefields by Jeanloup Sieff.
In Italy during the 1960s, and in
Spain and Portugal somewhat later, photographers emerged from what
has been called a "peripheral ghetto"—the result of more than 20
years of cultural isolation and indifference to the camera as an
expressive tool. For example, no retrospective of Portuguese
photography was held until 1991, with the result that work done in
the earlier years of this century was unknown both in that country
and to the rest of the world. With increased tourism from the United
States and South America facilitating the exchange of examples and
ideas, and with greater opportunities in their own countries for
exhibition and publication, photographers soon embraced a full array
of contemporary modes.
The Italian photographs that seem
to achieve the greatest formal resolution in terms of conventional
straight photography are landscapes. The beauty of the land, made
even more poignant by encroaching industrialization, has prompted
Gianni Berengo, Franco Fontana, Mario Giacomelli, and Georgio
Lotti—all photojournalists—to produce views of nature that are
romantic in tenor and transcendent in effect. Exemplified by an
early depiction by Giacomelli of the harvest in the Marches region, these images sustain interest because they mediate
between the world as it is and as it is photographed, with-out
calling undue attention to the aesthetic or conceptual aspects of
the medium. In another approach to documentation, Italian
photographer-anthropologist Marialba Russo captures the stages of
ritual observances in a style that neither heightens nor dramatizes
the visual experience but presents it as though the viewer were a
participant in the event who does not necessarily understand its
significance. Indigenous rituals have also engaged the Spanish
photographer Cristina Garcia Rodero, who believes that her extensive
"portrait" of such customs reveals "the mysterious, genuine, and
magic soul of Spain".
MARIO GIACOMELLI. Landscape
Gelatin silver print. Bristol Workshops in Photography, Bristol,
CRISTINA GARCIA RODERO.
Pilgrimage from Lumbier, Spain, 1980.
Gelatin silver print. Gallery of Contemporary Photography, Santa
Photojournalism Outside the United
Photojournalism provided an outlet
for the skills of numerous photographers from a variety of countries
who contributed to the vitality of both European and American
picture journals during the 1960s and '70s; photojournalists tend to
be peripatetic internationalists who do not necessarily reside in
their countries of origin. Even though by the 1970s photoessays had
become more or less predictable in style and superficial in content,
individual photographers were at times able to transcend these
limitations. One example is the work of Peter Magubane, South
Africa's leading photojournalism His strong images of the struggles
of black South Africans, among them a photograph of a gesture that
seems to symbolize their sorrow and anger, were no
doubt intensified by the photographer's own imprisonment under
Photojournalists outside the United
States could not rely on the foundation support enjoyed by some of
their American counterparts, but many nevertheless managed to
produce in-depth documentation of social circum-stances no matter
where they came from or where they were assigned. Images by Sabine
Weiss explore the delights of childhood play in Paris neighborhoods;
those by Marie-Paule Negre expose the poverty of life at the outer
fringes of French society'; those by Raymond Depardon reveal the
look of the terrain and the forms of daily life in Africa.
During the 1970s, a number of
European photojournalists joined collectives such as Saftra in
Sweden and Viva in France in order to carry out progressive social
documentation that the established agencies and journals no longer
welcomed. Martine Franck, one of the founders of Viva, used a
rigorous formal structure to document the effects of middle-class
culture on the individual. The angular shapes, staccato tonal
contrasts, and spatially isolated figures seen in Provence suggest the dehumanization and oppressiveness of affluence.
Jean-Philippe Charbonnier and Gilles Peress take a similar formal
approach to social issues, except that Charbonnier's attitude is
more distanced, his structuring less obvious, and his message more
ambiguous. Peress, who has documented strife in Ireland, Iran, and
Bosnia, has made his photoreportage distinctively personal, whether
imbuing it with ironic detachment or using the structure and forms
of the picture to create a powerful sense of alienation and chaos.
A number of photojournalists have
shaped their own projects, among them Magnum photographers Depardon,
Josef Koudelka, and Scbastiao Salgado (the latter two originally
from Czechoslovakia and Brazil, respectively). For his documentation
of gypsy life, Koudelka worked in Rumania, Spain, France, and the
British Isles throughout much of the 1960s, probing the varied
aspects of their nomadic existence—familial affection, pride in
animals, love of the dramatic gesture, isolation from
the larger culture. Like many others of his generation, Koudelka
uses lens distortion, blurs, tipped horizons, and unusual formats to
evoke emotion. His recent images of the despoliation of land and
waterways in Eastern Europe caused by industrial pollution were made
in panoramic format, which seems to enhance the sense of desolation.
Salgado, whose magazine assignments have brought him face to face
with the wretched of the earth in South America and Africa, has undertaken on his own an extensive and poignant
documentation of the conditions of poor laborers throughout the
world. In other such projects, Raghubir Singh has endeavored to
reveal both the inner and outer worlds of life in his Indian
Photojournalism as exemplified by
Yevgeny Khaldey's shot of the victorious Red Army in Berlin continued to be the predominant concern of photographers in the
Soviet Union before its dissolution in 1989- With few exceptions,
photography as a personal means of artistic expression or as a foil
for texts with messages other than those required by the press
received little official support or exposure. Nevertheless, many of
the younger photographers who came of age during the 1960s and '70s
embraced the same techniques used in both subjective and
photojournalistic photography in the West. Among them was Boris Savelev, whose treatment of light gives his casual-seeming color
images made on the streets of Moscow and Leningrad (before it was
renamed St. Petersburg) an agreeable romantic dimension. Others
employed the distortion of spatial perspective, the blurring of part
of the visual field, and the incorporation of lens reflections to
convey a grittier view of life. The Lithuanian photographer
Aleksandras Macijauskas, for example, used a wide-angle lens to
heighten the viewer's sense of the emotional drama in such ordinary
activities as a procedure in a veterinary hospital.
RAYMOND DEPARDON. Angola
(Luena, Street Scene), February 1994.
Gelatin silver print. Magnum Photos, New York.
MARTINE FRANCK. Provence,
Gelatin silver print.
GILLES PERESS. N. Ireland:
Loyalists vs. Nationalists, 1986.
Gelatin silver print.
JOSEF KOUDELKA. Rumania, 1968.
Gelatin silver print.
(b Boskovice, nr Brno, 10 Jan
Czech photographer of Moravian
birth. He graduated from the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering of
the Czech Higher Institute of Technology in Prague (1961) and became
an engineer of aircraft engines. He began to photograph as an
amateur at the age of 14. In 1961, with the encouragement of the
photographer and critic Jiri Jenнcek (1895–1963), he held his first
exhibition, at the popular Prague theatre Semafor. He was also
influenced by the theorist Anna Fбrovб. From 1962 he worked as a
photographer for the journal Divadlo and from 1965 for the
avant-garde Theatre behind the Gate (Divadlo za Branou), led by the
director Otomar Krejca, which enabled him to become professional. In
1965 he was accepted as a member of the Photography Section of the
Association of Czech Artists, and in 1967 he left his job as an
engineer to dedicate himself to photography.
ALEKSANDRAS MACIJAUSKAS. In
the Veterinary Clinic, 1977.
Gelatin silver print. Private collection.
Japan and China
Given the homogenization of
contemporary global culture, one would expect to find Japanese
photographers responding to the same influences as Americans and
Europeans, but while this has indeed been the case, photography in
Japan has evolved under unique conditions. After a brief but rich
period of modernist creativity during the 1920s, noncommercial
photography in Japan parroted painting or soft-focus Pictorialism.
Following the war and until about 1960, with the exception of the
exquisite documentation of traditional Japanese art objects by Ken
Domon, there was little interest in photography as
artistic expression. The concepts of large-format camerawork as
conceived by Edward Weston and of modernist experimentalism were
brought to Japan by Yasuhiro Ishimoto when he returned in 1953 after
studying at the Institute of Design in Chicago. But the network for
disseminating photographs that emerged, which was very different
from that in the States, influenced the kind of photographs being
produced. Because the museum and commercial gallery activities that
sustained the West's market for artistic camera images did not exist
in Japan, most Japanese photographers worked mainly for books and
magazines, favoring a realistic style and images arranged in
sequences rather than the single print. As a consequence, until
recently there was little interest in Japan in producing fine prints
or in experimenting with process and techniques in order to create
singular artistic objects. Museums and galleries devoted exclusively
to photography did not develop there until the 1990s.
The goal of Japancse photographers
during the 1960s and '70s, according to the critic Shoji Yamagishi,
was to "demonstrate that photography is a kind of consciousness that
can be shared by everyone in his daily life, rather than simply an
expression of one's own personality or identity."
This concept is central to the work
of Shomei Tomatsu, a former photojournalist and the author of eight
photo-graphic books (including one on the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing
done in collaboration with Domon). Sandwich Man, Tokyo
(from the book Nippon) is a forceful but enigmatic image of a
tradition on the verge of obliteration due to the radical changes in
contemporary Japanese life—a theme that has engaged this
photographer since the 1960s. The socially oriented images by Daidoh
Moriyama—-among them, a series called Nippon Theater— involve ideas
related to Tomatsu's and similarly share with the work of many
Westerners a preference for close-ups, graininess, blurs, and stark
tonal contrasts used to heighten the emotional pitch of the
situations they depict.
Polished images of nudes and
landscape by the highly regarded Kishin Shinoyama seem to tit
stylistically and thematically into the tradition of ukiyo-e
woodblock art at the same time that they satisfy the modern demand
for unambiguous photographic representation. In contrast, Nobuyoshi
Araki deals with less conventional behavior in a range of styles
influenced by photographers as varied as Frank and Mapplethorpe.
Araki's interests encompass urban street scenes, still lifes,
ambiguous-looking sexual forms, and overtly masochistic stagings of
women in bondage.
Ikko (born Ikko Narahara) may be,
along with Araki and Eikoh Hosoe, the Japanese
photographer best known internationally. Though a straight image in
terms of technique, his Two Garbage Cans, Indian Village, New
Mexico, U.S.A., part of a series entitled Where Time
Has Vanished, is surreal in effect. Its razor-sharp focus and the
strange juxtaposition of organic forms and mechanically produced
objects convey the photographer's reaction to the perplexing
contrasts between nature and culture in the American West. American
influence, in particular that of Weston's work, moved Toshio Shibata
to use the direct expressive power of the camera to produce
enigmatic images of land and water. Notions about gender equality
emanating from the United States have led to an increase in the
number of women photographers active in Japan in recent years. Among
them are Miyako Ishiuchi, who deals with issues of aging by
photographing in close-up the hands and feet of women, and Yoshino
Oishi, considered Japan's most prominent contemporary
KEN DOMON. Detail
(Left Hand of the Sitting Image of Buddha Skakanmni in the Hall of
Miroku, the Muro-ji), c. 1960s.
Gelatin silver print.
SHOMEI TOMATSU. Sandwich Man,
Gelatin silver print. Museum of Modern Art, New York; Gift of the
IKKO. Two Garbage Cans, Indian
Village, New Mexico, USA., 1972.
Gelatin silver print.
Photography in China during the
20th century has contrasted with developments elsewhere. For some 80
years, camerawork there has been valued almost entirely in terms of
its contributions to the political struggles that have consumed the
nation. Isolation from Europe and the United States, as well as
China's relative underdevelopment, has deprived photographers of
access to the rich creative ideas of modernism and the tradition of
Western social documentation. In the wake of the revolutionary
ferment during the first decade of this century, Chinese
picture-news journals emerged to promote photo-reportage as a means
to document the facts of life while emphasizing the country's
political and economic advances. Le Monde (edited in Paris and
published in Shanghai), which was started in 1907 as the first
Chinese-language picture journal, reproduced between 100 and 200
images per issue. Following the outbreak of the war with Japan in
1937, photoreportage on the Communist side was limited by the lack
of materials. In an effort to gain adherents to their cause, the
Communists devoted their scarce resources almost exclusively to
presenting information about the activities of the Eighth Route Army
in the remote areas of northwestern China.
After the establishment of the
People's Republic in 1949, the appearance of picture magazines such
as China Pictorial and China Reconstructs increased the demand for
photojournalistic images, but the images became less factual and
more frankly propagandistic, a role they continued to play during
the Cultural Revolution. Remaining somewhat proscribed until the
1980s, photographer's continued to portray industrial workers,
peasants, and indeed ail sectors of the populace in a confident and
picturesque fashion. Though technically proficient, their images
seldom probed beyond superficial appearances or investigated
problematic aspects of life in China.
Given the extent of China's
political and social turmoil throughout this century, it is hardly
surprising that photography as artistic expression did not receive
the same support as photoreportage. Books of scenic views
emphasizing the beauty of the countryside were published in Shanghai
in the early part of the century, and in the 1930s the Pictorialist
style attracted a small following of amateurs and professionals who
sent works to the international salons and competitions. Among them
was Wu Yinbo, the most consciously artistic of professionals, who
later became a photojournalist for China Pictorial. The emulation of
the themes, compositions, and styles of scroll painting that
characterized Chinese Pictorialist photography continued into the
early 1980s, with calligraphed characters sometimes added to the
negative or sometimes brushed onto the print. An effort was made
during the 1930s to adapt this style to working-class themes, as in
Construction by Liu Ban Nong. In another approach photographer Zhang Yin Quan tried to fuse the European
experimental ideas of the "new vision" with socially significant
subjects; both these attempts appear to have been short-lived. On
the whole, although there were fine photographers at work, such as
the veteran photojournalist Zhang Shuicheng, Chinese photography was
circumscribed by a number of factors: by the high cost of materials
and of reproduction in a relatively poor nation, by the strong grip
of traditionalism on all visual expression, and by the limited
interest within officialdom (where funding was controlled) in the
medium's potential to create images that would transcend utilitarian
In the past fifteen or so years,
this situation has changed dramatically as photography has become
almost a passion among the Chinese. The number of individuals
involved in photographic societies has increased from 100, before
1980, to more than 30,000 now. The practice of the medium has become
diversified, with individuals not only working for government
agencies but also freelancing by selling their work for publication
and taking pictures as personal expression. These changes have been
triggered by increased contacts with, and greater acceptance of,
American and European ideas and individuals, as well as by easier
access to materials now that foreign manufacturers have established
factories in China producing photographic equipment and film. In
addition, for the first time, officials in charge of cultural
activities admit that differing concepts of photography exist,
freeing individuals to choose their own directions.
Chinese photographers currently
involved in social documentation have shown themselves less inclined
to idealization. The inadequate schools that rural children must
endure have been pictured by Xie Hailong, and the
rapid changes brought about by rampant building are presented as
mixed blessings by Xu Yong, whose images of disappearing hutongs
bring to mind photographs made by Westerners mourning the loss of
cherished elements of their own past. The wide-spread excavations in
China of archaeological remains have provided photographers with the
occasion to document their country's ancient culture. Acknowledgment
of the medium's aesthetic potential has afforded former pilot Chen
Changfen an opportunity to combine aerial views in color of earth,
moon, and sun, merging modern aesthetic concepts with ancient
LIU BAN NONG. Construction,
Gravure. Courtesy Zhang Shuichcng, Beijing.
ZHANG YIN QUAN. Cart Pullers,
Gelatin silver print. Courtesy Zhang Shuichcng, Beijing.
XIE HAILONG. The Entire
School, Nanyantou Village, Shenyoiugou Township, Shanxi Province,
Gelatin silver prim. China Photography Publishing House, Beijing.
CHEN CHANGFEN. Environmental
Metamorphic Fission, c. 1983.
Chromogenic color print. Chinese Photographers Association, Beijing.